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Solanum Lycopersicum

light from overhead fixtures

reflects off of your hallowed surface

like distant low beams

cutting through fog 

 

cold and unyielding

though supple in places,

your smooth skin covers familiar topography

in reds and oranges so fine

hiding the vulnerable flesh within 

 

nightshade sepal

that you wear as a crown

does it remind you of the flower

which commenced your only season? 

 

your scent is strongest

at the point where you jettisoned the connection

to the vine of your birth

leaving behind countless brothers and sisters

to find your destiny before my eyes 

 

thank you.

Written By: Steven Louis Ray

Steven Louis Ray is a multidisciplinary artist working in traditional film and darkroom processes, in addition to writing and recording experimental music and writing poetry. He’s currently slogging his way to a creative writing certificate and studying printmaking at City College of San Francisco. More of his photography can be viewed at stevenlouisray.com

Copy of The Little People in Our Plants_Visual Arts_Procreate Digital Illustration

Art Title: The Little People in our Plants

Artist: Bianca Joy Catolos

Bianca Joy Catolos is a graphic designer based in the Bay Area  with a passion for drawing and illustration. She illustrates to document memories, stories, and assets of life in a quirky, abstract and colorful way to share and commentate how she sees people and world. Bianca is a digital artist with a traditional background in painting and often mixes the two to create endless worlds and scenes to fuel the imagination.

Bag of Marbles

We were shooting marbles with our older brother

Arnulfo kneeling on a patch of dirt

Front of a mud brown apartment building 

 

Clink as one marble collides      into another

He won a ruby glass Cleary 

 

Shiny marbles, shiny joy in our eyes

As he was 27 and playing with us kids

My little brother Herbie and me

Written By: Rocio Ramirez

Rocio Ramirez is a Counselor who works with families. She has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a Certificate in Expressive arts therapies. She has been a Presenter for IVAT, Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Trauma, in La Jolla. She has recently presented on the use of Sandplay therapy and Collage with Domestic violence survivors. She is currently writing a book on sandplay therapy and art therapy with disenfranchised populations. She is always happiest when she is next to the sea.

Copy of Canid I_Visual Arts_Pastel on Stipple Paper

Art Title: Canid I

Artist: Teresa Beatty

San Francisco based artist, Teresa Beatty, has spent the last few years honing her skills in printmaking and drawing. Her interests span from scientific illustration to art therapy. In pursuit of bettering her craft she’s traveled across the globe. She uses art as a tool for healing, expression and connection.

Sticky Pavement

Tense, blurry sight. 

Status? Stagnant water 

without the contemplation. 

 

A deep-rooted 

spinal itch, 

trails like a trickle, 

not cool,

not sweet, 

up to my neck and down 

to my tailbone. 

 

Let me breathe myself 

into the night air that drifts 

and clings to my nose tip 

ears, eyebrows, lips, 

chest. 

 

I want to melt 

into the sticky pavement 

because it sounds cool 

and might smell like 

woodsmoke, 

carried on the rain. 

 

But I am filled with string, 

muffled and amassed like 

cobwebs and candyfloss. 

 

Tense-eyed, blurry sight and heated cheeks from stagnant 

studying, still water but without the contemplation but instead a deep- 

rooted spinal itch trailing like a trickle, not cool, not sweet, up to 

my neck and down 

to my tailbone. 

 

Let me breathe 

 

breathe myself into the night air that drifts so sweetly across, clings ever-so 

slightly to my nose tip, ears, dry lips, 

tongue, chest. And let me forget all the rest, that mass of muffled string filling 

me so unproductively. Yes I know it’s me but how can I help myself when 

 

I want to melt into the sticky pavement because it sounds cool and 

might smell like woodsmoke floating on the rain. Bathe me in the white light that’s dulled 

by the misted streets, let it seep into my pores and line my lungs so they fill. 

 

I am filled with string, taught, but with too much of it, strung energy 

with nowhere to project to.

Written By: Helen Halliwell

Originally from England, Helen is currently studying English Literature in the Bay Area, and hopes to one day move back to the UK to continue studying and pursue teaching. When not reading or writing, she tries to keep a keen eye out for things in people or nature to inspire her poetry, stories, and sketches.

Copy of Canid IV_Visual Arts_Linocut Print

Art Title: Canid IV

Artist: Teresa Beatty

San Francisco based artist, Teresa Beatty, has spent the last few years honing her skills in printmaking and drawing. Her interests span from scientific illustration to art therapy. In pursuit of bettering her craft she’s traveled across the globe. She uses art as a tool for healing, expression and connection.

Neon Pharmacy

I know I’ve stepped on sands of beaches

hit on all sixes; shot the Chicago typewriter

mammy cradles Jazzbo to the living end

near the villa I kiss his warm lips,

tarot cards over dry lake beds

near Missouri tugboats

map my route

wings flap like coattails as

anchors fall from the sky

leaving their sailor moon

over the lily pond snowflakes mix

like neon pharmacy by the candy aisle

butterflies land, colors camouflaged.

in the backyard the dog gathers bones

to study archaeology

the sound of crab apples in the distance

lingers in the key of leaving

chopsticks click; once conjoined

the capo slides onto the guitar 

Written By: Gloria Keeley

I’m a graduate of San Francisco State University with a BA and MA in Creative Writing.  My work has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Slipstream, FORUM and other journals. I graduated from CCSF and I taught at CCSF for 34 years and was the editor of FORUM in 1969.

Copy of ornithophobia_Visual Arts_photography

Art Title: Ornithophobia

Artist: Eunbin Lee

I am a student studying photography  from Korea. Living in a new culture and environment of the United States, I try to express through pictures what I felt based on various daily experiences. I feel a sense of freedom by expressing it through my photographs rather than words. I hope people can feel the feelings that I want to convey through my photos.

Court Geometry

r           r

  u      e

     b b

pavement 

 

cassette tape beat

don’t chase the ball into the street 

l            r

  e       e

    a th

hardwood 

 

scoreboard screams

television bleacher dreams 

 

he and i memorize the lines

— on the court

on the ball —

in our pronouns 

 

sweat and contact and equipment closet-

ed

after practice 

 

one on one 

 

a timeout stolen from the game with no final buzzer

in which every move is a statistic

and on the line is

out

Written By: Matt Luedke

Matt Luedke is a former editor of Forum who continues to be inspired by the writing community he’s found through CCSF. He has also been published in Prairie Light Review and Ripples in Space. Links to his published works are at mattluedke.com.

Sunday Sunday Sunday

Dad is too drunk to drive, so I take his keys and lay him into the back seat with a plastic water bottle. The sun’s beating down on the Sonoma hills and the roar of hot rods exploding down the track is loud. We will have to find out who won from the Sonoma Raceway Radio on our way home, but it does not really matter that much. Not to me.

“Drink Dad,” I tell him. “Finish the bottle.”

He sits up — too quick — and snarls at the back of my head. He seems about to speak. Instead he flips off the plastic cap and chugs the water bottle dry, tossing it out the window into the dirt parking lot. I consider going after it, but it’s best to get the hell out before the race ends. I do not want to sit in the heat and traffic all the way home.

His hand grasps my seat as he tries to catapult himself into the front. I pull the car back, reversing out of the parking space fast, and dislodge his grip, then lurch forward as I pull away, dropping him into the back seat.

“Shit, let me drive,” he grumbles. But we are already on our way and he lets it go.

I drive through the exit gates, passing an empty cop car and some bored looking traffic attendants. I turn the car onto the highway. Back to Sacramento.

 *  *  *

The day had been mostly good. We woke early on Sundays, almost as early as a regular day because most Sundays Dad wanted to get church finished and over with early so he could spend the rest of the day doing what he pleased. Sometimes it was brunch. Sometimes it was the lake. Today it had been the race. It was always drinking. Sunday was the only day he would drink before noon.

“Come on kiddo,” he had said that morning, finishing his cup of sweet, black coffee. “Let’s go see the hot rods.”

Mom stepped quickly into the room wearing a knee-length pastel dress, ready for early service. She looked Dad up and down and asked him why he was not dressed.

“No church today,” Dad said. “Today me and the kid are going to Sears Point. It’s a rite of passage now that he’s got his license.”

We had seen hot rods at Sonoma before, but this would be the first time since I started driving and he kept telling me that until you drive you can’t really understand racing. But I always understood racing. It was all about spending time with my dad.

*  *  *

Dad knew someone at the track who always got us pit passes that gave us access to the drivers before the race. We would hang out at the staging area where hot-rods, funny cars, and motorcycles had to wait their turn to run the track. We could stay with the drivers until they were called up. From here we could watch them fire up their engines and shoot away toward the finish as we were left in a haze of nitro-fueled smoke. For the rest of my life the smell of nitro-fuel, or even just gasoline, will always remind me of Sunday with my dad. The smell was powerful and after a dozen or so races standing downwind, we had to make our way up to the concession stands just to keep from passing out. That’s when Dad would begin the day’s drinking.

“Shot and a beer,” Dad had said to the bartender behind the portable bar in the large red and white tent. “And a coke,” he added, looking at me. I was his buddy, his “wingman.”

“A wingman has your back,” he said.

“I’ve got yours and you’ve got mine,” I answered. We clinked our drinks together in a toast. It always started off so well. The first two or three drinks lifted his spirits and gave him an edgy, sarcastic wit that people found amusing. He would flirt with young girls and say he was just trying to find a bride for his kid. All for laughs.

“That’s what being a wingman is all about,” he told me.

It was usually around the fifth or sixth drink that his slightly sarcastic wit turned very sarcastic, and lost its wit. I could sometimes draw him away from the bar by saying I had to pee, which of course he would too. But if he were on a roll, as he was today, he would just point in the general direction of the restrooms and tell me he’d wait right here. By the time I returned he was drunk and really just an asshole. The girls had left and there were two Latino bikers sitting next to him looking just a bit annoyed as he went on about the smell of nitro-fuel.

“Sometimes I’ll bring trash bags down to the track to capture a big whiff,” He yelled. “Next week I’ll pop that vintage right open and get a snoot-full. Sometimes it still got a real kick that’ll knock me on my ass.”

The Latino bikers were doing their best to ignore him which was getting him even more riled up. I knew we needed to get back to the car, so I pulled him around to face me.

“Come on, Dad,” I said. “Let’s hit it.”

He looked at me blankly. I waited for my request to settle in. The bartender placed two plastic bottles of water on the bar next to us.

“The last race is done,” I said. “Let’s get out before everyone else.”

“Sure,” Dad said slowly. He opened one of the water bottles and drank it down. I took a bottle in one hand and his arm in the other to guide him out the open flap of the tent.

“No point hanging around here anymore,” he said.

*  *  *

Dad is sprawled out in the back with his eyes closed. I keep the radio low so it does not disturb him.

In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream…

An old Bruce Springsteen song comes on the radio. I can just hear him singing along in the back.

We gotta get out while we’re young. ‘Cause tramps like
us, baby we were born to run…

I look at his face and see him mouthing the words so I turn the volume way up.

Written by: Sean Carlin

Born in California, raised in Israel, served in the military, educated in film and television, documented environmental and social justice work, produced and directed commercials, Sean Karlin is a filmmaker and creative director who lives in San Francisco with his wife Orli. 

Bible on the dashboard of a '65 Buick
Photograph

Art title: Sixtyfive

Art by: Adrian Ordenana

The Things You See

These are the things you see
yet I remember:               first,
the animals in cages too small,
littered with empty strawberry
soda cans;                           then,
the yellow cocoon of a puttering bus
to Aden,                               then
the sudden carcass of a car,
a woman running in full balto
and nikab, and blood on the road.
I am                        here
and you are                       there.
It’s strange to wake and not see
you in your bed bent over
crossed legs unfolding out of sleep,
count our coins together for bodega coffee.
I am alone on a packed corner
where a woman catches my eye
telling me she’s anorexic, OCD
is killing her, and would I please
put my trust in a stranger and call
her sister? You would’ve been her
stranger, a brief indent against the skin
of another day. A sister, my sister—
for though some say two friends
must be            parted,
the hazel tree still stands by
our old window
by the wire fence
and vacant lot,
where the bittersweet
vine once held fast.                       Look:
its grooved body still marks
the invisible       weight of another.

Written by: Grace Zhou

Grace H. Zhou is a poet, dancer, and cultural anthropologist living in Oakland, California. Her writings are inspired by ethnographic encounters, diasporic experience, botanical worlds, friendship, and loss. Her work can also be found in Icarus Magazine and a smattering of academic publications. She is Poetry Editor at ABD Zine and a PhD Candidate at Stanford University.

 

Toucan barbet, by Canyon Sam

Skeletor

Skeletor had long wanted a body: to cover him, shield him, make him whole. He was only a skeleton. He was jealous of the other skeletons who had bodies. Sometimes, he would put clothes on and stuff them with pillows or crumpled up newspaper and stare in the mirror. He always put an extra pillow or something in his stomach area because he didn’t know what it was like to be hungry. He dreamed that one day he would have a body with a big belly. He couldn’t wait to be hungry.

His name, tk421, had been given to him by the courts. There was also tk422, tk423, bk102, and so on. All names had two letters followed by three numbers. It was more or less a tracking system the courts had developed. But the skeletons usually hated their names and would come up with their own. His given name, tk421, was funny to Skeletor because of the scene in Star Wars using that name. He liked Star Wars. He liked fantasy movies and stories. Anything that would take his mind off his current world. Skeletor named himself after He-Man & the Masters of the Universe, a cartoon. He always rooted for He-Man but was sympathetic to Skeletor, and being a skeleton, the name made sense. He imagined it would only be a short time before he got a body and then he would get a new name that did not consist of two letters and three numbers.

The rules and regulations to get a body were simple: fill out the forms properly, keep your bones clean, don’t break your bones, and the most important rule — do not go outside during daylight hours. He followed these rules religiously but about a year ago, he was mistaken to have taken part in a protest where many skeletons marched the streets — during the day! Skeletor couldn’t believe so many skeletons would do this. He was so afraid to break the daylight law that he would wait one hour after official daylight time to go outside. But a skeleton, with a body, had said he was in the protest. Skeletons, after all, do look alike, and skeletons, unlike skeletons with a body, are guilty until proven innocent. The skeletons that openly admitted to taking part in the protest were banished to Skeleton Island. Once there, the odds of getting a body were about one in a million. Those who were accused like Skeletor, but denied it, were in limbo with the courts. There was no trial for them; they were given a strike on their record. Two strikes and it’s Skeleton Island. Skeletons with no strikes were first in line for bodies.

Bodies, these days, were produced ever so slowly, because of resources, or so they were told. There were conspiracy theories, mainly held by the skeleton population. One theory, probably the most believed, was that they slowed down body production because they were experimenting with bodies in order to make them stronger, more durable, and last longer. Skeletor paid no mind though. He just wanted a body and didn’t care what quality.

He went to the bd (Body Department) to check, yet again, to see if he had been given a body. He only went once a week. Some skeletons went everyday but Skeletor didn’t want to upset the wrong clerk at the bd. He had heard of a skeleton that was banished to Skeleton Island for checking too much. He didn’t want to risk that. The clerks always called the skeletons “bone.” It was a running joke with the clerks. They also cracked jokes to the skeletons, like “make no bones about it, no body for you,” and other ridiculous comments. But the skeletons were at their mercy. The clerks had bodies.

“Next bone,” the clerk yelled. Skeletor walked up to the window.

The clerk said, “Hi Bone.”

“Hello, I’m tk421,” Skeletor said.

“Teee…Kayyy…nope. Next bone,” the clerk said with a smirk. Skeletor walked away, sad, yet again. What could be the problem, he thought. Normally, skeletons with one strike would get a body after about six months. It had been at least a year since the protest incident. He decided to go see his friend, tk997, also known as Ribeye.

Ribeye was a mentor to the skeletons. He had been around for many years. He shared everything about his life and helped any skeleton he could. He was like an open book, but no one really knew the whole story as to why he never got a body. This, Ribeye, would
not share.

Skeletor knocked. “Come in,” Ribeye said from his sculpting chair. He was adding water to his clay for a new piece.

“Hi Ribeye,” Skeletor said and walked over to the long picnic table which was covered in books and sat down. He felt at ease; he always did at Ribeye’s house. The walls were lined with bookshelves that were filled mostly with books but also with sculptures. Ribeye had become a very talented artist over the years. He mostly created sculptures of planets with different terrains. The rest of his house was similar to other skeleton houses: there was the main room, a
small sleeping quarters, and a shower. There was no kitchen or bathroom because skeletons didn’t eat or drink. Ribeye spent his time sculpting and reading.

He never bothered to check with the BD and from what Skeletor could tell, he was content.

“Let me guess, you’re coming from the BD,” Ribeye said. He noticed Skeletor’s bone posture.

“You guessed right. I don’t know what to do anymore. If I don’t get a body soon, I may take the incinerator option. This is terrible. I just want to be hungry and thirsty. To taste. How can I remain a skeleton? Who wants to be a skeleton!?” Skeletor remembered just then about Ribeye’s decision. “I mean, I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t offend you.”

“Relax, Skeletor. I’ve made my decision to remain a skeleton and I’m happy with it. I have my books and my sculpting. Have you developed any hobbies besides dressing up like you have a body?”

“Well, uhhh, not really,” Skeletor said; he was embarrassed. How did Ribeye know he still dressed himself up?

“Look, we’ve all dressed up. Even me. It’s only natural. But you should start thinking about what would make you happy, as you are now, a skeleton.”

“But I want to eat. I want to drink. I want to feel.” Skeletor felt defeated.

“Don’t you feel now? You feel sad, right? Well, you can feel happy too,” Ribeye said.

“I suppose so,” Skeletor said and slumped at the table. “Well, I’m going home before daylight begins.Thank you for your advice.”

“Remember, there’s no guarantee a body will make you happy. You’ve seen them, not all of them are happy. Even the ones with large bellies. Think about that.”

Skeletor walked home, slow and sad. Days and weeks passed. He hadn’t been to the BD since that day he saw Ribeye. He was too depressed to hear another rejection. He even stopped dressing up. But he kept his bones clean, hoping. After about two months he couldn’t take it anymore. He thought, one more check at the BD and if no luck, he would start his life, as he is, a skeleton.

“Next bone,” the clerk said with an abnormally big smile. He remembered this bone.

“Hi, I’m TK421,” Skeletor said, shaking.

“I know,” the clerk said.

Written by: Andrew Park

Andrew Park grew up near Sacramento and earned a Business degree at Chico State before moving to San Francisco. He has always written in his spare time as a hobby. In the Fall of 2019, he took a creative writing class at the City College of San Francisco for fun.

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama
Portrait of Yayoi Kusama, Japanese artist

Art title: Yayoi Kusama 

Art  by: Ana Lazaro

Ana Lazaro is a San Francisco based artist. She considers herself a world citizen and has, since childhood, had a passion for capturing moods and emotions through her portraiture. Ana’s current work is inspired by her desire to celebrate empowered women making a difference across the globe.

Colliery

At the MoMA there is a series of photos, black and white,
Bernd and Hilla Becher who captured old steel mills, toppled
tipples now destitute. My heart is a braitch hole, once full now
excised of any valuables, cavernous drop through earth.

Fingers pick me over, break away the slate from the good coal.
Uniform pieces of anthracite so when heated I might burn
efficiently. Our purpose is limited: fuel the fire for those
who will forget our ash. The best poor man’s country stripped,
carted away by lokies, thirty at a time. Coal mine no. 9

These photos hang quiet, their reverence is a taunt.
Each frame remembers I am from the stepping stones
of industry, remembers that I am just a girl from south
of the mountain. Did the Bechers know how they
commemorated forgotten things? The resolve
of my lonely mountain towns, ugly from strip mines?

Oh, there are valley creeks converging in me, mine
run-off lays waste all these years later, the mud is xanthic,
smelling of peat and sulfur—this is my yoke. Tears ooze,

like oil, to leave stains upon my collar.

Written by: Dominique Whitman

Dominique Witman is a SF transplant who has been living in and enjoying the city for over six years. She is a part of the CCSF community and is currently studying English. She enjoys exploring identity and cultural differences within the US through her poetry.

Mother of Pearl Rosary

My brother Herbert and sister Luisa laughing
Sitting and swinging on a church gate
A black robed priest, wearing a crucifix,
swearing at them, to get down
Confirmation day, white dresses
Wearing a white carnations corsage my mother had given me
No indication of oncoming storms on that sunny May day
No indication of how our faith would be tested
No indication of oncoming heavy rains
My mother drowning in winter
Riding in the back of my father’s olive Volkswagen,
with my brother Herbert and sister Luisa
Drunken father, speeding Volkswagen
Terror of crash
After my mother’s death,
He broke down, crying
He neglected to put food in the refrigerator
I was a hungry child, searching for sandwich ham
Opening an empty white refrigerator
Finding only dismay and a bottle of cheap Italian dressing,
to hungrily gulp down
Under an apricot sunset
I walked along a crumbling seawall,
in need of repair
Broken heart
in need of repair
This pier has become my anchor
Dolphins joyfully leaping in ocean waves,
my consolation
Broken faith
White adobe church of my youth mocking me,
as I knelt on my knees to pray

Written by: Rocio Ramirez

Rocio Ramirez is a Counselor who works with families. She has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a Certificate in Expressive arts therapies. She has been a Presenter for IVAT, Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Trauma, in La Jolla. She has recently presented on the use of Sandplay therapy and Collage with Domestic violence survivors. She is currently writing a book on sandplay therapy and art therapy with disenfranchised populations. She is always happiest when she is next to the sea.