You will need –A preying mantis rescued from a lawnmower –Five ants rescued from a kitchen where the balabosta was going to crush them. –A wrapped piece of grocery cake Hostess or my new favorite that comes from Mexico white cake covered in chocolate with some spots of red jelly Gansito –Your favorite pair of colored socks –Your favorite pair of comfortable worn-out socks –A book you’re been meaning to read –Miscellaneous secret government files –My mother Felice’s fountain pen with something in her handwriting –My father Eli’s thimble he used as a tailor –One of my grandfather Wulf’s Hebrew Prayer Books –Something my grandmother Rachel has sewn
–A short piece played on the piano by my sister Ruth –The smell of the beach of Riis Park on a hot summer’s day –A worn pair of my dance shoes –The tights I started to knit and stopped at the calf of the second leg and then forgot how to knit altogether –Photos of the local people who went to see the last performance of Beach Blanket Babylon closing after forty-five years including Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein and Dick Blum –Some of the DNA from elephants, lions, giraffes, feral cats –Some bit of giant Redwoods and Sequoias –The wisps of laughter, puzzlements, revelations of my now gone family and friends
(Add all of yours) Whoosh them all together in a beautiful canyon someplace in New Mexico
where they will create a whirling–like a soft tornado up to the horizon
and out to cover the world And surely this will save the human species in 2020.
Helen Dannenberg writes with the Older Writers Lab. She takes various arts-related classes and featured her assemblages in Open Studios 2019. She participates with San Francisco Recreation and Parks Cosmic Elders and has been a dancer and choreographer, and worked as an Activity Director and Social Services Coordinator in skilled nursing facilities.
A 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.
don’t follow me like that
with your sleazy saunter
and those toned (bone-d) twigs
and impossibly long locks
the color of crows (screaming murder!)
the color of cats, those black island cats, following me all over
staring me down with eyes the color of citrine
don’t look at me like that
holding your ground as i back toward my car
posing against the cemeterial scene
thousands of stones
millions of bones
dressed in summer green with floral accents
languidly tossing, up and down, up and down, a white ball
daring me to hold my ground
staring me down through eyes the color of that ball
(eyes with no color at all)
don’t haunt me like that
the other patron in the red water bar
the passenger in the back seat of my car
the visitor at my bedroom door that’s ajar
that we go back to play at the alae*
*alae – a cemetery outside hilo, a city on hawaii’s big island
Sarah Elliott is a poet, classical pianist, and opera coach, who in her spare time practices law in San Francisco.
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Victor Bhatti started practicing graffiti art on paper at the age of 8, emboldened by the walls around his neighborhood. He works in a number of mediums, including spray paint, airbrush, acrylics, oils, pastels, color pencil, and more. Children Forever Dream is the name of an artist collective he founded to bring together community artists and inspire the next generation.
It was time to go.
I walked outside to wait for you.
You were picking me up for a picnic
and I was delighted I’d be with you.
You didn’t talk about
your AIDS diagnosis —
mysterious letters I didn’t comprehend.
What was that, anyway?
Instead you were just you,
which was everything — the perfect man.
Your laughter, your wit, your exuberance
kept me smiling and, as always, adoring you.
It was time to go.
You picked up your picnic blanket.
You carefully folded it
and handed it to me.
“Here. Take it.
I won’t be needing it anymore.”
That’s how you told me.
It was time to go.
(In loving memory of Richard-Michel Paris)
Vivian Imperiale uses poetry to process her emotions and to pay ongoing tribute to the Love of her Life who died in 1985 in the AIDS Epidemic.
Constance Louie-Handelman completed her A.A. degree at CCSF in 1973. Now retired as a clinical psychologist, she has returned to CCSF 2019 spring semester with a focus on digital photography.
In hot suburban Florida
in an old, sandy bungalow
my father used to
measure my height on the doorframe
If we left the honey out
roaches would come
a bee drove his stinger into my arm—
that kind of summer visit
my baby brother—
learning to talk
my father tuning in
to area news
amid rows of Miller cans in the TV room
dad sold home alarms back then
drove us around
with a gun in the glovebox
I used to look for love in the gifts I gave him—
paisley ties and cologne
I wrote confrontations from 31,000 feet above
only to ball them up at sea level
enter the string of wrong
me, a war girlfriend
waiting by the phone
I am older now, a mother
I can see inside the dollhouse:
The marble queen pothos—that glossy, leathery, heart-shaped vine that grew up in my mother’s home—cascades down my banister. Devil’s ivy, they call it, because it is un-killable.
Dad falls off a low ladder
Son learns how to surf
Son builds castles from old boxes
Sails boats of old and worn shoes
A native of New Orleans, Megan Brown feels most at home near water. Her writing has been published in the Social Science Quarterly, East Bay Times, and 580 Split. In 2008, her short memoir about her campaign work in Nevada earned an Honorable Mention in the America’s Funniest Humor Writing Contest.
Sarah A. Smith
Sarah A. Smith works with ink on paper to create scenes that feature animals and nature. Often, her inspiration comes from antiques and objects in museums like this one, “Tiger and Hen,” drawn from a design on a 17th century huqqa base which is in the collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.
Seventeen glasses, full to the brim –
coffee, orange juice, milk, some water to drink.
They took so long to finish their breakfast,
Not that they wanted them to last.
Seventeen kisses, or sighs from Dad and Mom;
Don’t be late, come home by five o’clock.
Let’s plan tonight for our weekend getaway,
or maybe let’s watch some movie, so we better stay.
Seventeen rides going to school –
Busy cars, buses, or walking on foot.
Smiles were greeted, bags lain on desks,
Phones were barred, though they still check their texts.
Seventeen steps, walking in his boots
to reach Building 12, the mad boy took.
Shooting his AR-15 everywhere he aimed his fire –
Imploding from inside he took his ire.
Seventeen calls, or more the students made;
Smoke everywhere, what’s happening, for heavens’ sake!
Tears, cries, and bloodshed sprawled on the floor.
Who even let this guy enter the door?
Seventeen dreams, cut without warning.
On this day the sun at the park stopped shining.
Fernando Rosal Gonzalez
Fernando Rosal Gonzalez has published novellas, children’s storybooks and written TV scripts both for mainstream and independent producers in Manila. He created the children’s TV show, “Oyayi,” which was jointly produced by CBN-Asia, the NCCT (National Council for Children’s Television), and ABS-CBN. He is currently taking up filmmaking and creative writing courses at CCSF.
My photographic journey started six years ago when I took my first photography class at CCSF. This course ignited my passion for making pictures and creating something with my camera. It has become a way of expressing myself.
Spirals enthrall her.
She draws them in notebooks,
coil upon coil, twisting glyphs
about the page.
She sports a tattoo choker.
In this she finds comfort and beauty.
A loving vine about her neck turns her morning glory blue.
She re-enacts vestigial memories of a liquid time:
An umbilical cord slowly constricts;
her heart languishes
with each thrust.
She bears straps about her legs,
spiral rotators to twist in-turned hips, and inserts
that only allow for clunky shoes, an imposition most unartistic.
She howls in protest, hangs from me in anger, arms encircling my waist,
counters my legs with thick brick feet, pulling me
over, pinning me, craving the intolerable
constraint of love.
She snakes yarn about her arms,
winds the wool around her legs, circles
her trunk, all around until – wrapped like a grub
in a cocoon — she trips around the room,
delighted with the oddity.
She’s eight and knows constraint,
winds it decoratively about her body.
Dictating the confines of ability and rules, she turns . . .
the choker into
Erika Dyquisto works as an adjunct professor at City College of San Francisco and San Francisco State University. She cherishes the moments of (human) itarian metaphysical power that carefully chosen words can create, however brief those moments may be.
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. Her background includes fashion and jewelry design. Ana’s current work is inspired by her desire to celebrate female artists across the globe.
How you danced with rainbow scarves
one in your hand, the other draped
across your bare shoulders
You made a tutu from violet shorts
curtsied for the camera
your red lipstick never fades.
You wrote the lyrics of your disease
Desire still trembling from fingertips
caress of a sunflower on your cheek
Sitting on the steps at the Washington march
You pulled back a sleeve, pale arm, held
the interferon laced syringe, poked
a needle into thinning veins. You, who named us
Mainstream Exiles, vagabonds, cast out of homes,
queer kids singing poetry on any empty corner
and abstract art projected onto flat buildings at night
We stole storefronts from their owners
Teeth chattering cold, but cheap
We were shadows, running to tape our words
on telephone polls on unlit streets. Your pretty boy face
returns as the exiled ones roam
and enter bars where you once sat
in dark rooms, illuminated by one disco ball
sequins, raw sex, edged in hidden alleys
back doors, the snap of fingers, attention
puckered lips, swaying hips, and the rough red spots
of disease. Coming out at twilight, a candlelight vigil
Haunting echoes of a conch shell summons
all who have laid in death’s bed
morphine induced dreams, fists raised
How the banner unfurls, blanketing us
Fingers pressed to lips, heads bowed
Not as supplicants, as dancers waiting
For the music’s crescendo.
Carla Schick was in the political queer arts group, Mainstream Exiles, in the early 1980’s. Their poetry is published in Sinister Wisdom, A Gathering of the Tribes, Suisun Review and Earth’s Daughters, and they received first place in the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Contest.
My name is Desi Pena. I am 23 years old and enjoy skateboarding, making skate videos, photography and writing. Follow my Instagram @desip_
Currents move unselfishly.
Lapping at the shores of our consciousness
Repainting memories now faded
from strained expectations
but it is a gift
A taste of what true love is
of the heartaches measured in the waves
watch as the sea moves
in conjunction with the wind
they are kind lovers to one another
like the rib I’ve sought over lifetimes
It is a gift
the innocence of dreaming
the act of creationism from a childlike heart,
sewing the purest seeds of destiny and home.
So I listen to the sounds of forgotten pictures
Lapping at the shores of my consciousness
repainting the memory of my own dreams
– tiny masterpieces of life
I believed would be mine one day –
and I feel the hope well
the source of my good
the kindest parts
that I’d covered up for protection.
And in my mind
I drink from this well
A treasure I had once lost the location of
the origin of what my love languages look
like in flesh and spirit.
And I’m happily transformed by the attention paid to the lovers,
and my own deepest desires,
of a life consisting of intoxicatingly
waves and wind.
R. Shawntez Jackson
R. Shawntez Jackson is a native of the Eastbay. He is an award winning poet, playwright, spoken word artist, actor, educator and father of Wordsi2i.org. He is described as a vivid story-teller creatively framing and displaying some of the best and worst details of relationships, religion and sexuality.
S. M. Murphy
S. M. Murphy is a multidisciplinary artist inspired by the grotesque and macabre. His murals and artwork have been shown on the walls and in galleries of Sacramento and San Francisco, including both M5Art’s Art Hotel and Art Street projects.
Jeremiah lied every night. After prayer circle the youth group would discuss what concrete steps they’d taken to establishing their church here, in Buenos Aires. And every night Jeremiah, who would’ve spent most of the day walking aimlessly around the metropolis, lied. He said that he’d witnessed to a drunk in Bosques de Palermo, or to a divorcee in a Cafe Havanna, or to a toothless communist in a parillada. He’d seen these people during his wanderings, but he never talked to them. If he did occasionally talk to cashiers, bus drivers, and the like, it was never about Jesus. The other youth group members usually managed to bring one or two fellow college kids to the drafty space they’d rented between a cell phone store and a butcher shop. Jeremiah had zero new-comers in two months. One night Pastor Jeff pulled him aside after share circle.
“You’ve been on my heart a lot lately, Big J. I hope you know that. And I just wanted to have a one-on-one to see how everything is going. If maybe there’s some way we can better make use of your time.”
The other youth group members went to Spanish classes at the University by day. Jeremiah already knew the language because of his Spanish grandmother, and had his days to himself. It was agreed that he help the others with the language in the evenings, though only a couple of the quieter girls actually took him up on this.
“I’ve been trying. It’s just everyone here’s so Catholic.”
Pastor Jeff assured Jeremiah that he completely understood. He only asked that Jeremiah make a solid commitment to getting one person, just one, to come to Bible and Bites. Jeremiah said he would do his best, and then skipped dinner to go for walk around the neighborhood.
As he was stepping out of the building, a policeman got off a bus dragging a kid about Jeremiah’s own age behind him. Once on the sidewalk, he slapped the kid on the back of the head, booted him on the butt, and called him a maricón. He then let him go and himself got back on the bus. The kid walked past Jeremiah, rubbing the back of his head. One of his eyebrows was pierced, and the other had three vertical lines shaved out of it. He wore an adidas track suit that swished as he walked. He caught Jeremiah staring. He smirked as he took off his white tennis hat. “Que?” he asked. Jeremiah looked away.
Jeremiah replayed the scene in his mind. He wondered what the kid had done to deserve that. Lost as he was in such thoughts, he walked farther than he’d meant to. He had left the dorm’s neighborhood, but he wasn’t sure in what direction he’d gone. He turned down a street he didn’t recognize at all. It looked like medieval Europe. Part of it was the trees. With their thick, gnarled trunks, they could been older than the buildings they stood in front of, which themselves had an immovable aspect unique to the oldest of buildings. He stepped under the trees and was surprised to find that it was already night under there. The street itself was cobblestoned, and in the extreme darkness it appeared wet. Another pedestrian passed by him, but Jeremiah hardly saw them. It was as though they were gliding past each other underwater. After they’d passed, Jeremiah craned his neck to look back. They might’ve done the same, it was too dark to tell.
He had to strain to hear his own footsteps. He looked at the backs of his hands, and then his palms. He laughed without knowing why. It felt good here, there was that. So good, in fact, that once he’d reached the end of the tree shaded street, he turned around and did it all over again.
Now he wanted to stay out a little longer. Perhaps there was more to find. He’d noticed the train tracks before, but had never walked along them. He found a way in and started down them. After a couple of minutes the kid who’d been kicked off the bus came towards him. Jeremiah stared for too long again, and the kid stared back. “Que onda Yanqui?” he said when they were near, each one on their own set of tracks. Jeremiah tried to respond, but only managed to make a sound that died somewhere in the back of his throat. A few steps after they had passed each other, Jeremiah craned his neck to look back. The kid had turned to look too. Jeremiah snapped his head forward.
During the day Jeremiah continued exploring other neighborhoods; Recoleta with its middle aged women in fashionable pants suits, giant sunglasses, and white high heels; San Telmo with its aging intellectuals in wool vests; the skater kids by 9 de Julio with their adidas warm-up pants tucked into their socks; the garrulous drunks of La Boca in worn slacks and wine stained oxfords. At night he walked the tree shaded street and the train tracks. It wasn’t long before he saw the kid from the bus on the train tracks again. This time the kid pointed directly at Jeremiah’s chest, at the blue youth group sweatshirt with its crucifix insignia. “Evangelico?” he said. Jeremiah nodded, to which the kid pointed at his own chest and said, “Satán!” with a laugh. He motioned for Jeremiah to stop. He told him that his name was actually Manolo, not Satan, and offered to sell him marijuana.
“Evangelico.” Jeremiah said while pointing at his own chest. Manolo slapped himself lightly on the head, “Ah claro, disculpa disculpa.” He wanted to know what, if anything, Jeremiah did for fun. Did he even ate ice cream? When Jeremiah said of course he did, Manolo threw his arms up in relief and offered to take Jeremiah to the best ice cream spot in Buenos Aires. He promised that it was close and that he would get Jeremiah back home before his bed time. Jeremiah said that he didn’t know, but Manolo insisted, “Te invito.” He assured Jeremiah that he was not, in fact, Satan.
They hung out a few times after that. Manolo showed Jeremiah a famous empanaderia, walked him down a culvert where kids their age smoked weed and made out with their girlfriends, took him to a part of Bosques de Palermo that had an astonishing number of stray cats in it, pointed out the transvestite prostitutes on their way back from seeing the cats, and, always and no matter what else they were doing, showed him video after video on his phone. Clips of street fights, cruel pranks, soccer riots, and lurid reggaeton music videos. He would sidle up very close to Jeremiah to show him the videos, and he always smelled of menthol cigarettes and musky cologne.
Jeremiah began skipping his tutoring sessions in the evenings to hang out with Manolo. Eventually Pastor Jeff pressed Jeremiah about what he’d been doing with all his time if he wasn’t tutoring, if he still hadn’t gotten anyone to come to the church, not even for Bible and Bites, not even for Movie Night. “Maybe,” Pastor Jeff offered, “you’re out there looking for yourself? I know how it is at your age. But just remember that whatever you’re looking for is not of this world. Remember to find yourself in the light of God’s love.” And so Jeremiah imagined himself with a flashlight, the beam the deep crimson glow of the Sacred Heart. This was something he’d started doing on this trip, trying to take the words in sermons and in the bible as literally as possible. He meant no disrespect, it was just the only way he could pay attention to words like that now. Otherwise they lost all meaning. And so in this instance he imagined himself with the crimson flashlight in hand, searching the darkened streets of Buenos Aires. He came upon the tree shaded street. There he found himself cowering on a dank stoop. He shined the light on himself then, but his other self would not look up. He kept his head buried in his arms as the light shined on him.
After his talk with Pastor Jeff, Jeremiah started doing some tutoring again. One of the quieter girls, Taylor, was picking up the language fast, and she too had taken to going off on her own to explore the city. She visited museums and attended dance performances, though she always made sure to be back in time for prayer circle.
After one of their lessons she asked Jeremiah where it was that he went all the time. He must have been feeling stir crazy because without thinking twice he offered to show her. He had them leave the dorm at twilight so that he would miss prayer circle. Taylor wore sandals with jewels on them and a purse he had never seen her use before. She had also put on some eye make up. They passed through a fancy part of the neighborhood on their way to the tree shaded street. She slowed to admire the spacious cafes and brightly lit clothing stores. When they turned the corner onto the tree shaded street, she hesitated.
“I know,” Jeremiah said, “Super dark.”
She said it felt about ten degrees colder under the trees. Jeremiah agreed and breathed in the cool, almost minty air. After the tree shaded street they passed all the warehouses and junk yards that led to the train tracks. There was more and more dog shit on the sidewalk to dodge. Jeremiah stepped in it about once a week and was barely bothered by it; it was good luck if it was your left foot, or so Manolo said. Someone yelled at them from a passing car. Taylor asked what they had said. Jeremiah hadn’t quite caught it, but he knew it wasn’t howdy. When they finally reached the train tracks she stopped and looked back the way they’d come.
“I might catch a cab back,” she said.
He asked what was wrong. She said that she didn’t know, that maybe she’d just been expecting something different.
“And now that guy is staring at us.”
Jeremiah looked over. Manolo was crouched against the railroad wall, smoking a cigarette slowly and deliberately while staring right at them. Jeremiah waved.
“You know him?” she asked.
“A little, yeah.”
“Then why didn’t he wave back?”
Jeremiah said he didn’t know, though of course he had an idea. He walked her back to the street to catch a cab. She made room for him in the backseat, but he remained standing, holding the door open.
“You’re not coming?”
“I think I’m going to stay out a while.”
She scooted over to get a better look at him. The orange glow of the streetlight illuminated her face. There was a spattering of freckles across her nose that he’d never noticed before, and her make-up highlighted the inquisitiveness of her expression.
“What’s going on with you, Jeremiah? These aren’t nice places. And that guy looks dangerous.”
“It’s just a style.”
“I don’t mean to pry, but are you, do you think you’re still walking with Jesus in your heart?”
He put his hand over his heart and felt it beat. He imagined a tiny Jesus living in there, seated in an armchair, watching Jeremiah’s life unfold. What would that tiny Jesus say, he wondered.
“That’s a good question,” he said.
Manolo was still at the tracks when Jeremiah got back. There were big clouds passing in front of a big moon and the world felt three times its usual size. Manolo stood up from the wall just as the clouds cleared. For a moment, he was bathed in moonlight. They both were. Light glinted off his gold chain as he walked up to Jeremiah. He smelled of menthol cigarettes and musky cologne. His hand was warm, despite the cold.
Christopher Williams lives in Oakland, where he works as an interpreter. He hopes you’ll check out his fiction blog at christopherpaulwilliams.wordpress.com. Last month he had one visitor. He believes that if we work together, we can double that number.
Charles is a lover of all things San Francisco. His fiction writing includes stories of traveling abroad, baseball, a misguided youth on the streets of SF, and other tales of life in the city.