THAT FACE by EDISOL WAYNE DOTSON

That Face

 

He was one of the honest ones, and there never have been enough of those. “The truth will set me free, but it won’t get me laid,” I once overheard him say. He was standing with a small group of us at the back bar in Gabbie’s in West Hollywood, where we waited for one of the criminally-beautiful, and shirtless, straight bartenders to bring us our drinks. The truth will set me free, but it won’t get me laid. He was right, of course. At that point in his life, few would have anything to do with him, and even a few of those few, if not all of them, probably ended up wondering whether their time with him had been a mistake. We were careful weren’t we? Memories—especially those we are just walking away from—are often blurred by our longing to repeat them and just as often by our desire to forget them. 

I didn’t know him well. I was a distant relation, a mere friend of a friend of a friend. Mine were but a pair of what one of his close friends called the “six knees of separation” that made us all kin of one kind or another. I would run in to him from time to time, at the drug store or grocery store, or at a party, where on most of these occasions I would find him in a corner looking out at the crowd over the rim of his Negroni, the only cocktail I ever saw him drink. He never looked lonely or out of place. He never struck me as a wallflower. Instead, he looked as if he wanted to be there, watching the room and the crowd, taking it all in and storing it away for future use, like a spy or novelist.

I first saw him at the Lost & Found, a dance bar in Washington, D.C. This would have been in 1979, the year My Sharona hit number one and murdered disco, starting our beloved disco divas—and many of us—on a downward spiral straight to obscurity. Still, we carried on. The soundtrack may have changed but our story remained the same. We still went to the bars in search of love, but if all we ended up with was a night of dancing, poppers and—fingers crossed—sex, that would have been enough to get us through until the next weekend. 

Before the post-Stonewall cruise ship on which we had been so happily sailing struck an iceberg, leaving us all racing for the lifeboats, I would sometimes see him at the Club Baths on O Street. In later years on a different coast, I would see him in the sex clubs that sprang up when the bathhouses were shut down. I would see him in the gym, that place we migrated to in one giant herd to make the outside of us look indestructible, no matter what was going on with the inside of us. 

I’m not certain he ever knew my name. If he did he never called me by it. We were never properly introduced, he and I. As certain of that as I am, he might have thought we had been at one time or another. Or maybe he just didn’t think it was necessary, since we had those friends of friends of friends in common and had often ended up in the same places, with the same people, and were therefore in that way intimate with one another and didn’t need a formal introduction when an informal one was obviously sufficient. 

When I turned the page of the newspaper this morning and saw his name, the memory of my first sight of him that had been over the years sliding further away rushed back into the realm of the living, like the soul of a recently deceased who wasn’t quite ready, or appropriately dressed, for the pearly gates, and would, thank you very much, come back at a later time.

For some of us who lived in the suburbs, most of Washington, D.C. was unknown to us, particularly if our father was one of those white people who hated black people. My father was one of those white people. 

I, on the other hand, loved black people for the fact that they were everything I was not. I loved the black men and women I watched every Saturday afternoon on Soul Train, an hour of devotion that was more my idea of Church than any house of God could ever have been. The only non-black dancer was an Asian woman with straight black hair that fell to below her waist. In later years, I would have called her fabulous, but in the late-1970s I had not yet learned how useful and important that word would become. 

In my late-elementary school days, we were taken on the occasional field trip into D.C., to visit the museums, my face pressed against the cold glass of the bus as we crossed over the Potomac River into what to me was something akin to ancient Rome or Greece, since most of the federal government buildings—pointed out to us by the teachers—had been built to mimic the architecture of the past civilizations we had spent so many hours in the classroom studying. I have often wondered if there were other boys on that bus who, like I, imagined our entrance into D.C. as exhilarating as Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra entering Rome.

In the museums our teachers made certain to hurry us past the paintings and sculptures that had any amount of exposed flesh, which of course were the very ones I wanted to stop and stare at. I was especially drawn to the paintings with barely-dressed or naked men and the statues with exposed male genitalia that created within me a desire I couldn’t begin to understand, but knew instinctively I would die for if need be.  

Later, out of school and old enough to drive, but still too young to get into the bars, my forays into D.C. became not to the museums but to the porn shops on 14th Street, where age didn’t matter and I could buy a pack of cigarettes and, for $3.99, a shrink-wrapped package of three magazines with page after page of naked men. These were not the naked men I had seen in the pages of Playgirl (stolen from the drug store by slipping them into a newspaper) whose cocks, though lovely and enticing, were for the most part soft, and whose asses, again lovely and enticing, were just a pair of sometimes smooth and sometimes hairy cheeks with no hint of that heavenly terrain in between. 

Back in my car, I would race home with a cigarette hanging between my lips and a hand on top of the package in the passenger seat, stroking the plastic, wondering what it would be like to have an actual man sitting next to me, my hand between his legs and his between mine. I couldn’t wait to get home where I would lock myself in my bedroom, drop my pants and underwear and rip open the package and look at the pages filled with photographs of naked men having sex, the photo spreads laid out like story boards, simple and to the point: kissing on one page, sucking on the next, fucking on the next, and ending at the moment of truth on the next with a pool of cum in a navel or sprayed into a patch of hair between the pectorals or—and this was the best of them all—shot directly onto a stretched out tongue, a pair of eyes looking up into the camera as if it were me they were hungry for. 

It was at this age, barely sixteen, when the wanting to be touched by a man and the wanting to touch one was so intense, so vital it hurt. It hurt more than a stomachache, more than a sore throat, more than a freshly broken bone. It hurt with a pain I would not come to truly understand until decades later when I was in my fifties and knew that I could never have the beautiful young boys who were forever in my line of vision. This was not the pain of heartbreak; that I came to understand at an all too early age. No, this late-in-life pain was something much worse: pure and simple rejection. 

Yes, there were boys my own age I wanted who were also growing hair in strange places and emitting body smells that were as intriguing as they were repulsive. The difference between the boys and the men in the magazines, though, was that the boys were obtainable. I could touch them, and did. Not all of them, but a few here and there who were, like me, curious and more than willing to swear not to tell. But it was a man I wanted, not a boy. It was my teachers at school, a couple of my neighbors, even my father and one of my uncles I thought of most when I masturbated. And don’t think for a moment I was the only teenage boy who had these fantasies. Not all those stories we hear about grown men taking advantage of innocent teenage boys are true. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. Still, it’s always easier to believe the ones we want to be telling the truth rather than the ones who are actually telling it. 

Eventually, I became a man, or at least an eighteen-year-old boy, which made me legal enough to drink beer and to know how to get a fake ID so I could be “legal” enough to drink liquor. I could, finally, walk into the bars in Dupont Circle and the Lost & Found, and the bathhouse, where the bodies were real, not frozen in paintings and sculptures as they were in the museums or in the porn magazines. The men in the bars and bathhouse were alive, pulsing and beating and sweating and bleeding with emotion and sex. I could get close enough to smell them. All that remained was to touch them, taste them, possess them, and, yes, love them. 

Which bar I would go to depended on what night of the week I was going out. If it were an after-work weekday outing it would be happy hour at Rascals in Dupont Circle, followed by dinner at the Chesapeake House on 9th Street, N.W., just a few blocks from the F.B.I headquarters, which in 1972 officially became the J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I. Building, named after the infamous homosexual F.B.I. director. 

There were other bars to go to for happy hour, but it was the clientele at Rascals that appealed to me. I was drawn to men in suits and ties more than I was to men in jeans and T-shirts, and it was the former more than the latter who tended to visit Rascals. Of course, what it came down to in the end was who was paying attention to me, regardless of what he was wearing. The fantasy, though, was important, the suit and tie representing success, meaning they had money. That these suit-and-tiers could be up to their balls in debt was something I never thought of. Debt was my parent’s most talked about problem, but was something I had yet to experience for myself. Some of the men wore wedding bands. Others no doubt had them stashed in pockets. These men—the handsome ones, anyway—intrigued me. I longed to know what they looked like out of the suits and ties (and socks and underwear) and found myself envying their wives the way I had envied the wife of my seventh-grade math teacher: she got to see him naked every day of her life. 

What the food at the Chesapeake House lacked in quality was more than made up for by the nude go-go boys who danced along the bar that ran opposite a row of tables in the center of the restaurant and a parallel row of booths against a wall. The dancers had thin, lithe bodies that were neck-to-navel hairless. By the end of their thirty-minute shifts they glistened with sweat, like featherweight prizefighters after ten rounds, except that their faces—every one of them a rival of Ganymede—were without bruises and blood. The hair below the navel and on the legs—and presumably between the buttocks if hair grew there—was matted against skin that was pale as milk on one or two of the boys or tanned to a soft brown—except for the Speedo outline—on one or two of the others. 

Theirs was not a striptease act. They hopped on the stage naked, danced naked, and hopped off the stage naked, clutching ones and fives and tens and twenties, and the occasional fifty or hundred, in their fists. For bigger tips they would squat in front of a patron and shake their cock and balls, much to the delight of the patrons at the bar, who were mostly men old enough to be my grandfather. They would stare at the genitals in motion in front of them as if they were being hypnotized, sometimes with a smile, sometimes not; sometimes while they continued to eat, not caring that the odds were high that a pubic hair would fall into their chicken Kiev or grilled salmon. There were signs posted on the walls that read, “Touching the Dancers is Strictly Forbidden,” followed by some municipal code number, but these signs went largely ignored. Testicles were taken hold of and pulled, cocks squeezed and stroked, a finger or two would disappear behind a scrotum, only to reappear and sniffed. I never witnessed an arrest, but did on occasion see a slap on the wrist by a waiter or bartender, usually accompanied by a wink. 

Happy hour and dinner with dancing naked boys was a welcomed mid-week respite from my hum-drum existence as an accounts payable clerk, but it was nothing compared to Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons at the Lost & Found. 

It was a thirty-minute drive from my parent’s house to the Lost & Found.  I shared the house with a younger sister and brother. My parents and another younger brother lived in an apartment in a neighboring city where my mother was the apartment complex’s resident manager and my father the complex’s maintenance man. I continued to live in my childhood home because my job didn’t pay enough to afford me my own apartment. I barely managed to pay my car payment and insurance. There were times when I couldn’t afford gas and had to either stay at home or not eat. Most of the time, I chose not to eat. 

On any given Friday or Saturday night I would manage to scrounge up a semblance of dinner from what I could find in the refrigerator and eat in front of the television. My sister was usually there with me, nibbling on crackers, sipping a glass of white wine and chain smoking. I rarely saw my brother. He spent most of his time in his room in the basement, drinking six packs of beer purchased with the money he made from his pawning our father’s tools or fishing equipment he pilfered from the shed in the back yard. I didn’t have much in my room in terms of possessions, but I installed a deadbolt lock on the door nonetheless. 

After dinner, I would shave, shower, brush my teeth and spend an hour or more trying on clothes while dancing in front of the mirror with Donna Summer or Chic on the record player. I wouldn’t leave my house until eleven o’clock. No one in their right mind got to the Lost & Found before eleven-thirty. 

There was a three-dollar cover charge to get into the Lost & Found on Friday and Saturday nights. In exchange I got a ticket good for one cocktail. There were many nights when that one drink would have to last me an entire evening since I didn’t have the cash to buy another and hadn’t been lucky enough to meet someone who offered to buy me a drink. By the end of these nights, my beloved Tom Collins had no resemblance whatsoever to a cocktail and barely passed as sweetened ice water. The cherry at the bottom of the glass looked as lonely as I felt. 

It was a Friday night when I first saw That Face at the Lost & Found. I was standing in line, waiting my turn with the one who manned the door in that claustrophobic anteroom just outside the bar’s main room, when That Face burst in from outside and fell directly into the arms of the man standing in line behind me. He and the man fell to the floor. They had fallen in such way that That Face lay across the stranger’s lap like Jesus just down from the cross. It took a few moments for those of who had witnessed his dramatic entrance to understand what had happened and to react accordingly: to go to him and ask. In a loud whisper and to no one in particular, That Face said, “I was mugged! No! I was held up! At gunpoint!” I could see by the looks on the faces around me and from the doubt I felt within myself that none of us were quite certain if we believed him. Some no doubt doubted him because of how he seemed to be confused about whether he had been mugged or held up at gunpoint. Others, myself one of them, refused to believe him simply because we couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to hurt someone so beautiful. 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

Edisol Wayne Dotson is the author of “Behold the Man: The Hype and Selling of Male Beauty in Media and Culture.” His fiction has appeared in “Forum” and his nonfiction and poetry have appeared in “Art & Understanding.”

 

WHY SO SERIOUS by SEAN LANE

How do you deal with emotions? I swallow them. Let them sink deep into my gut until they ferment and seep into my subconscious, becoming quips and jokes to stave off any other pesky feelings that might arise. Just bottle them right up. They probably won’t bubble over at an inconvenient or inappropriate moment. Probably. Like a placid lake, my surface is calm and undisturbed, but every so often a body floats to the top, fucking up the picturesque landscape for anyone who witnesses it. Every practice has its shortcomings. Besides, if you think about it, what good are emotions anyway? I mean, who really needs to understand themselves?

        The term “too soon” is not one uttered often in my immediate circle, both with friends and family. My mother is the exception to this. She is like most normal people, dealing with her issues in the healthy, open kind of way. I wouldn’t say that I actively seek out others that share my personal philosophy. If anything, people like me tend to gravitate toward each other, finding a likeness in one another that is both a relief and a pleasure, sharing in a mutually irreverent existence in close proximity. These types of friendships are built on the understanding that, while both people possess feelings, neither one will ever want to discuss them. Without this obligatory constraint most friendships require, it becomes easier to simply enjoy the company.

However, this character flaw is not always easily achieved. Sometimes something so staggering happens that you become susceptible to these “natural” emotional tendencies. They shake the foundation of your very being, and make it almost impossible to laugh off. Almost. But, if I’m being honest, even these moments aren’t exempt from my sarcastic inclinations.

****************

        Have you ever owned a Nissan? I haven’t. Neither has anyone else in my family. I don’t know if this is because Nissan is just a shittier version of a Toyota or Honda, or because it’s the make of car that killed my brother. Probably the latter. But let’s not completely discount the issue of product quality.

“Killer Nissan” is what we call them now. Not in an angry way, more as a subtle nod to the event that shattered our household and tested the character and strength of our collective beings, as well as my father’s preferred method of dealing with grief. It’s hard to imagine any philosophical notion holding up to the kind blunt force trauma my family was hit with, let alone a philosophy wrapped in the guise of not having emotions. I was five at the time and had yet to develop my model of coping, but from what I’ve been told I was already well on my way to being a chip off the ol’ block in the personality department.

        The effects of Rory’s death are vast, and have in some way or another bled into every aspect of my current life. I’ve dealt with issues of rage and violence, insecurity and overwhelming stubbornness that bordered on self-destructive. This is not merely from my own sense of loss, but also from having to witness the breakdown of my family and the lingering repercussions, as subdued as they are, that persist today in our endeavor to hold together. On a seemingly everyday basis I am reminded that I once had a brother. Every time someone new enters into my life (peer, co-worker, random interaction with stranger) general conversation dictates that I must answer for what happened.

“Do you have any siblings,” asks everyone you ever meet.

        I have discovered there are two ways to answer this question, each having its discernable structure of discourse. One, I tell the person that I have a brother and am eventually forced to confide that he is no longer living. This is usually followed by a look of embarrassment or whatever face passes for empathy from the other person and an “I’m so sorry”. That’s all right, I tell them, he feels much better about it now. Or two, I tell them I’m an only child, setting myself up to have my personal qualities attributed to growing up without a peer. I choose the second option most days. And while this is done out of a desire to make my life easier, it’s more to let others off the hook from a conversation they didn’t sign up for. People who lay their shit on unsuspecting victims cross a line of decorum in my opinion. Nobody deserves that. Although, I do reserve the right to change my mind on this stance if someone is truly worthy of shaming. After all, there’s nothing quite like dead kid ammo.

        Over the years my father’s humor has returned and made it possible to reference Rory’s death in the context of a joke. However, to this day there are reminders that remain off limits. Certain movies or songs that my brother loved risk breaking through my father’s mended, but still considerable ramparts. Talking about the event itself, the details, isn’t an option. The fact that it happened is enough. As an adult I’ve toyed with the idea of broaching this subject with my mother, and she would likely be willing to have that conversation, but I’m not. I’m not looking to analyze why I am the way I am or how his death altered the person I have become, especially at the expense of my mother having to relive the night her and my father had to watch their little boy leave this world. What am I, an asshole? I have an imagination and a good enough grasp on the depths of love a parent has for their child to know that I don’t want to know any more than I already do. We move forward with the hopeful, but not too hopeful, expectations of a brighter future to help diminish the shadow of Rory’s death that continually recedes into our past. Laughter is the sound of healing, even when the joke isn’t really funny. Especially then.

        In a way, Rory’s death has created a barrier in me. One on which I stand atop, looking down on every instant in life through a lens of pessimism, searching for the irony that will feed my now inherent need to take the piss out of everything. Other people’s disbelief in how shitty the world can be only validates this practice. And while it could be said that this outlook is depressing or negative or counterproductive, I would argue that it is the most pragmatic of approaches. Murphy’s Law suggests anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. So why not be prepared for the worst? At least then I have time to craft the perfect joke. All of this isn’t to say that I don’t have feelings. I’m just as susceptible to disappointment and sadness as the next sap. I just prefer to curl it inward until the pain in my stomach becomes so dense that it swallows me whole and I can disappear forever. And when that ultimately doesn’t happen I suck it up and try to put a bitter, funny twist on my misery and parade it around for everyone to see. I beat it down with public ridicule. This ideology served me well through most of my adolescent life, and has continued throughout my adult life, for the most part, as well. The one exception coming, not surprisingly, in the form of another premature passing.

****************

        Jared had already survived one round of cancer by the age of twenty-four. When it decided to come back for a second go at his insides, more aggressively and more widespread this time, it came to win. And win it did. He was twenty-eight years old when he died.

        The suddenness of Jared’s death was no joke. He had been in the hospital for less than a week when his brother, also my longtime friend, Derek, called and told me his condition. I made plans with their mother to come visit him the next day. It had been about a month since I had spoken to Jared. He refused all social media, going so far as to state that he would die before going on Facebook, so if there wasn’t a phone call, there was nothing. His stubbornness to accept aspects of social normalcy was a hallmark of his personality. He wanted to be disconnected from the majority of the world, so he chose his council and kept them close. I always respected that about him. We only lived sixty miles away from each other, but in the rigors of everyday life: working, relationships, laziness, we had unintentionally neglected each other. This would have been instantly forgiven on both sides. I say “would have” because we never spoke again. He died the night before I was supposed to see him. His stepfather called early in the morning to tell me the news and let me know that the services would be held sometime later in the week. When we hung up, I laid back down on my bed, pulled the covers over my face and fell apart as quietly as I could. This was the first of many times in the week to come that my code of emotional deadening failed me. There’s nothing witty to say about this. Well, give me a minute. Maybe I’ll think of something.

        If there is one thing that should be made clear about keeping your emotions in check, it is to abstain from or minimize the amount of situations where you risk losing your shit. In the case of Jared’s funeral, I didn’t really have much of a choice. Similar to my emotions, the natural drift in life that separates a person’s true friends from friends of proximity seems to also be crippled under the weight of shared tragedy. I had never witnessed any of our old friends cry before, and instead of feeling comforted or relieved, I felt an even greater sense of resistance and anger. My own tears came steadily before the ceremony, and could simply not be contained in the least as I embraced Jared’s mother, a woman I had come to love as my own family, for the first time since her son’s death. After this, my old friends thought it was only appropriate to view the body, and despite what anyone will ever tell you about this experience, it will never fully equal the sheer absurdity and grotesqueness of witnessing such a convention with your own eyes. As our group of strong young men looked down at Jared, the sniffles and heavy breathing amplified and everybody took it in, except for me. One glance was enough for me to realize I didn’t want to be there.

        “He looks good,” one or many of them said.

        This was a lie, because he didn’t look good. He looked fucking dead. Like a wax figure with a layer of make-up covering it’s sculpted face. A façade covering a façade. The willingness to accept that body as Jared stunned me, and made me feel like I was losing my mind. This was the joke, the only funny thing I remember from the entire day. I suppose that this ritual serves some sort of cathartic purpose, but in my eyes it’s an exercise in self-indulgence, a way to show everyone else how sad you can get. Really let it flow for the audience. I left the group and went back to my seat. I knew how I felt. That was enough for me.

        It took me a long time to allow myself to smile when I thought about Jared. I remembered how much we laughed and the enjoyment we got out of being together, but enacting those emotions was not allowed. And that was fine. In the absence of the right emotion, no emotion is second best. I remember his lightheartedness, his sly wit, the faces he made for any scenario. I remember our conversations, how his conservativism annoyed me, and how he would rile me up just to do it. I remember his stubbornness. He was my best friend.

        A few years after his death I officially granted myself permission to laugh when I thought about him. Something happened, an ironic wink sent down from above, if you believe in that sort of thing. And if not, a piece of cosmic perfection applied at the most inexplicable moment. Apparently, sometime after his passing Jared had altered his opinion regarding social media, or at least, a grieving family member had altered it for him. As I looked on the email inviting me to become friends with my dead best friend on Facebook, I cracked a smile and accepted his invitation, knowing the joke wouldn’t have been lost on him.

        In the years since his brother’s passing, Derek has finished school and has moved up to San Francisco and begun his career in construction management. Our relationship has always been strong, and it remains that way even now. Similar to my experience, his loss has altered the course of his life and how he chooses to live it. As it should. And like me he seems to have chosen the path of burying his feelings deep within himself. When we get together we hardly ever mention Jared. This isn’t a conscious decision, it’s just the way it is. On rare occasions, and under the influence of enough liquor, this unspoken rule falls flat and he talks about his brother. Sometimes in sadness, and others in celebratory revelry. On those nights I mostly listen. I like hearing about Jared from another person who loved him. I also think it’s a good sign for Derek. Maybe he’s not completely sunk. Maybe he can still crawl out of the emotional bog that I perpetually find myself in. Or, maybe he just needs more time and practice in how to turn his feelings into anything other than what they are. Either way, I’ll be here to help him out.

****************

        Maybe I’m just a coward, but even if this is the case I can’t find the harm in it. As long as I am able to recognize the moods and emotions of others, my ineptitude when it comes to sharing my feelings shouldn’t mean anything. Why should I burden anyone? Misery loves company, am I right? Well, I don’t know about that. I’ve always thought that my misery just wants to be left alone, the cave in which it dwells is damp and ill-lit, a perfect place to hide from the prying eyes of other people looking to forge a connection in pain. Why must we suffer together? No thanks. I’m all good on that.

        I remain resolved in my course of action, but as time goes on and my focus shift away from myself and more toward the family I have begun, I find that I am increasingly in uncharted territory. I am unwillingly inclined to bouts of overwhelming joy as well as crippling fear of what might happen at any given moment. I look at my daughter, Lilly, and imagine her future. And then I remember what life gave me and I get angry at the thought of her having to go through the hardships that life inevitably hits you with, like a goddamn Nissan. I can’t look down on her existence the same way I do toward everything else, because she deserves better. But that thought is a crack in the walls that defends me from the intrusion of unwelcomed emotions. After years of negotiating the terms in which I view this world and the inhabitants that occupy it, in an effort to stay in control, how is it possible to remain wholly the same when you are no longer invested in self-preservation above all else? You can’t, and that’s the rub. I fashioned my world and the ways I interact with it based on my experiences thus far, only to bring a child into that same world and be told that everything I created was horseshit. It’s not that I have been reformed or changed my tact in any way. I still abide by the old methods that got me here, and it is still effective. But whatever confidence I once had in this is now gone, scared away by the always looming thought of the worst case scenario. Of Rory. Of Jared.

        My fears grow with my hopes, both I keep to myself, within myself. To voice these would be to give them weight, creating a context for them to fall and crush me. No, I think I’ll play it cool. When other parents I meet talk about the strides their children are making, I’ll beam with pride and sardonically praise the most mundane or absurd skill my daughter possesses. Yeah, Lilly just learned to shove her whole fist in her mouth. It’s quite impressive. And like that, I will have catapulted myself back onto my perch high above the world, glimpsing from afar, once again, the ridiculousness of it all. At least, that’s what I’ll tell myself.

 

 

NOTE FROM SEAN: I am a recent UC Berkeley English graduate that enjoys creating stories that are fun, odd, and engaging.

Forum Fall 2018 Launch Party

Forum announces the launch of its Fall 2018 edition!!

Thursday, December 20th, 2018 at 6:00pm-8:30pm.

Alley Cat Books, 3036 24th Street, San Francisco, Ca (near Harrison Street).

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Fall Forum 2018 Cover Art by Meredith Brown.

Readings from our Fall 2018 featured poet MK Chavez, SF Poet Laureate Kim Shuck, California Book Award Winner Tongo Eisen-Martin, poet/authors Cassandra Dallett, Jennifer Barone and Thea Matthews.

 

 

Invited guests are CCSF Chancellor Mark Rocha, CCSF College Board of Trustee members and CCSF Faculty.

Forum Magazines Available, Raffle Prizes, Food and Libations.

There is a scheduled open mic, on a first-come-first-serve basis.

All are welcome!!

 

 

CANCELLED – Open Mic Night!

Hello Forum Followers!

We have had to cancel our Open Mic Night on Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 at 6pm at the Ocean Ale House. 😦

Due to the cancellation of classes through next Monday, November 26th, the Forum staff will be diligently working on preparing Forum Magazine for print; therefore, we need to cancel our Open Mic Night.

There is a possibility we will be able to reschedule an Open Mic Night prior to the Launch Party!

Stay tuned and thank you for your continued support of CCSF’s Forum Literary Magazine!!

 

Lit Crawl 2018!

Adobe Books in San Francisco’s Mission District sponsored many events for Lit Quake 2018 and on Saturday, October 20th they sponsored contributors of CCSF’s Forum Literary Magazine for the final day of Lit Crawl 2018!!

The well-attended event on Saturday, October 20th at 6pm had writers Jackie Davis-Martin, Matt Andrews, bloodflower, Vincent Calvarese, Matt Luedke and Zachariah Hauptman.

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Forum Magazine would like to thank Adobe Books, CCSF English Department faculty Jen Sullivan-Brych, Jackie Davis-Martin,  Chante McCormick, John Isles, Julie Young, Leila Easa, Cullen Bailey Burns .

FORUM at Litquake Lit Crawl – Saturday 10/20

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Contributors to City College of San Francisco’s FORUM literary magazine will read works published within its pages during its 81-year history. Emceed by Jackie Davis Martin.

Saturday October 20, 2018 6:30pm – 7:30pm

Held at Adobe Books & Arts Cooperative, 3130 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

Authors:

Matthew Andrews

Born and raised in Sacramento, Matthew Andrews moved to San Francisco almost a decade ago by way of Ann Arbor. He is a student at CCSF where he is pursuing a Creative Writing Certificate.

bloodflower

a native of southern New England, bloodflower has been publishing his singular yet provocative poesy since his teens, leading to publication in The New England Anthology of Poetry. bloodflower is an accomplished composer and multi-instrumentalist and has exhibited his photography… Read More →

Vincent Calvarese

Vincent Calvarese was born and raised in the Bay Area and has lived here all of his life. He has worn many hats in the Bay Area—barista, salesperson, journalist, graphic designer, union representative, deputy sheriff, homeless advocate and published writer and poet. After a long… Read More →

Matt Luedke

Matt Luedke was the Fiction Editor for CCSF’s Forum in Spring 2018. You can often find Matt either hiking through the nature of the Bay Area, biking up a steep SF hill in the easiest gear on his beloved, sticker-covered hybrid, or bundled up at one of SF’s cold beaches with a notebook… Read More →

The End by Aniah Hill

The origin of my misery lay dying in a hospital bed.  As I entered the room, I was overcome with the competing emotions of compassion and anger. A natural urge to embrace the suffering was rapidly suppressed by the anger that had burned inside me for so many years.  He was dying, finally, but only after he had damaged the souls of those who came close to embrace him. In fact, he actually did not appear to be suffering enough, all things considered.  He lay there comfortably, all doped up,  resting on crisp white sheets, smuggled in warm white blankets,  an array of white pillows framing his head like a halo.

He reached out to me. “Eshe” he pleaded, using my African name. “Come closer, I want to tell you something.”

The sorrow in his eyes again reached out to my compassionate nature. Which was immediately slammed again by the anger.  Just because he was dying did not mean he was a changed man. He was in fact still the abusive asshole who ruined my life and scarred the emotional development of our children.  It was not so long ago, this year I think, that he had physically assaulted our son in a dispute that began over steamed vegetables. His death could only bring relief. I looked over into his swollen, yellow eyes and almost felt pity.  But then I saw just a glint of that old, nasty flame that deceitfully invites you to be burned.  Instinctively, I began to back away.  It’s a trick, one last swing to bruise my psyche before departing to face the consequences of his choices.  No way will I give him the opportunity to inflict pain on me, even if it is his dying wish.

“Eshe, please…!!” he begged as I turned my back and exited the room.

 

The Skyscraper (Benjamin Guterman)

The Skyscraper

by Benjamin Guterman

Concrete slabs, ribbed and reinforced with iron,
Set together on riveted crossbars of steel,
Towering from the earth, and thrusting
Ever upward through the clouds.

Skyscraper of bold and massive slabs,
A thousand glittering windows soaring through the clouds
In ever faster succession along the rising grey rock.
Skyscraper with skeleton of tempered iron,
Firm in the midst of hurricanes, earthquakes, and natural devastation,
Oblivious to that ancient mother of creation,
Soaring proudly upward beyond the clouds.

Skyscraper, symbolic apex of human achievement,
Its simple form the projection of logic, science, and truth,
Its invariable upward rise the reflection of recent evolution,
Its foundation the headstone of mankind.
And nature cannot revive the myth of Babel,
For man will only politely listen, preferring instead
To launch his energy upward into the unknown,
To build to new dizzying heights of understanding and control.
The tower, foundation of further experimentation,
Of basic principles the conglomeration, stands firm,
Piercing the heavens to proclaim the triumph of man,
Stands firm, and proud, and glorious. . .

The tower stood majestic in the darkening shadow of bursting clouds,
Until pounded by a booming fist, as stone gave inward,
Until it snapped, and those slabs were ripped apart
And hurled as meteors in all directions.

The blinding, wondrous clouds expand and roll upward,
Evoking the screams of sixty thousand generations,
Exhaling the breath of instant annihilation,
Threshing the bones of civilizations.

Before the rumbling folds of mushrooming clouds,
A tower crumbled suddenly, into rubble and mounds.

“The Skyscraper,” by Benjamin Guterman originally published in Forum (1969, City College of San Francisco).

“Futility” by Dorothy Pilgrim

Futility

by Dorothy Pilgrim

To rise from earth’s low level for a space
And soar to giddy heights of mind’s delight;
To hold brief commune with the great, a sight
Of greatest truths to catch; and then this place
Of slowly muddling things to reach; to face
The thought that through your life you’ll fight
In vein to see again the splendid sight; —
This is the fate of those who seek to trace
The paths of mighty thoughts; the fate of those
Whose little minds one spec of greatness bear.
For though they feel the urge to rise again
They can but fall once more from where they rose,
They cannot grasp and hold the truth; they stare
Amazed, afraid, ashamed, that they are only men.

“Futility,” by Dorothy Pilgrim originally published in Forum (1938, City College of San Francisco).

“Ten-Second Sermon” by Jack Hulse

Ten-Second Sermon

by Jack Hulse

There seems to be a tension in people’s talk these days. Their speech is nervous, impatient. All of this, of course, is the reflection of fear–fear of their war-baby that killed so many Japanese so quickly. Maybe people are beginning to realize that you can’t be relaxed and charming while balancing yourself on a tightrope with madmen trying to cut the wire.

“Ten-Second Sermon,” by Jack Hulse originally published in Forum (1949, City College of San Francisco).