This is not a march she says. This is a walk, each step a prayer.
Her words a kind reminder in the voice of the ancestors
who knew the earth as Mother, the sky as Father.
This re-emerging language of native friends
who spot a sinuous cloud crossing the face of Grandmother Moon
and call it Protective Serpent.
This re-imagined way with words— pipe evoking peace, not bombs, relative relaxing the moment of greeting,
kin or stranger, no matter from where or from whom.
All were welcomed to Standing Rock,
home for months to water protectors, sacred-site defenders,
indigenous people converging from every forgotten place.
Dakota, Lakota, Sioux, and more-than-enough-more names
to make this the largest gathering of native nations
for over a hundred years.
Irresistible, this call to come together, drum together,
sing, cook, circle together on land now also of burying together
Irrepressible, the visions. New ways of being together
on land long consecrated by ceremony,
then violently desecrated by greed, misnamed as need.
Water is sacred they teach us. Ancient wisdom,
calling into question all doing done in the name of destiny,
in the name of progress, in the name of resources,
in the name of mine, in the name of My God!
Poetry came late to Anita’s life as she moved into retirement from her job as a social worker at SF General Hospital. “Renaming this Life” arose from transforming encounters with Older Writers at the Bernal Heights Library and with indigenous activists working to heal the planet in the face of ecological devastation.
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.
To know having
You must first have lost
Walked past the grocery store carts full of food
While counting the pennies in your pocket
To buy eggs you hope will keep everyone full for the rest of the week
To appreciate a Thanksgiving table
Piled high with green bean casserole
First you must
Have gone to bed hungry
There’s no Joy in having
First having lost
You cannot know the fresh squeezed joy of birth
Until you have held someone’s hand
While they slipped away from this world and into the next
There’s no love without grief
No joy without sorrow
No ecstasy without pain
To know the breath of life truly
You must have felt the hot burn in your lungs
While you sink below the waves
Watching the sunlight shimmer and streak through the blue grey water
There is no with
Until there has been
Kati Spitz is a painter, writer, and pastry chef living in San Francisco.
This piece, titled “Lost in the Cosmos,” is inspired by space. There is something so dark and mysterious but also beautiful about the depths of the universe, which is what I hope to convey through this piece.
It’s time to shape up
It’s over now, ended
Let Ms. Brain earn her keep and
Direct the show
Let go dependence
Loosen need away
Figure out how to tame the
Fanged lion of loneliness
Keep that bopping beat
Ms. Brain gets organized
Ms. Brain cast that net wide
Fill that need for one to one
Helen Dannenberg used spoken word in her choreography. She has done poetry with Sally Saunders and currently Older Writers Lab (OWL).
veronique fleming is a local sketchbook artist currently living on the island of alameda. “I draw to tune into a deeper sense of calm. It is a way to practice being internal, allowing my attention to focus completely in the present moment through whatever is being created on the page.”
This night, like every night, Angelina stands at her kitchen table in the light of a bare bulb, cutting leftover bread into small squares. Her long black hair is neatly wrapped in a bun, like a little hat on the top of her head. A silver cross, hanging from the brown leather neck, glimmers with her rhythm. She drinks a cup of yerba buena tea, fighting off a cold so as to not let her friends down by missing her morning appointment. She places the bread into an old shoe box, using the care of a mother laying her children to sleep. She goes to the bedroom where she will rest the tired body, free her mind of the barriers of flesh for the night.
She rises with the sun and emerges from her once-white studio apartment into the noise and decay that exists even in the dawn of the city. She wears a pink skirt bought at a church bazaar and a light blue sweater she found hanging from the fire hydrant around the corner. Under her right arm is the shoe box of bread which is kept closed with a rubber band.
She walks down the street, passing corners where boys live and die selling highs to those who have only known lows, passing sleeping drifters, the broken glass of windows and beer bottles, the sticky thickness of drying urine mixed with cool morning breeze, the cry of a baby, the roar of a bus, until she arrives at Our Lady Of Grace, crosses herself and then the playground between the church and the classrooms to the clogged water fountain where pigeons drink and bathe their dusty feathers.
A couple of feet from the fountain she slows and leans against a flowering plum. Its dark purple trunk, only inches taller and slightly sturdier than Angelina, bends under the weight of her years. She looks around the playground at the tire swings and wooden jungle gym and at the tile roof of the church. “Pajaritos.” She claps her hands twice. “Breakfast, el desayuno. Angelina’s here.” She slides the rubber band off the box and onto her wrist and sets the lid on the cracked earth at the base of the tree. A few pigeons fly to Angelina and land at her feet. She takes a handful of cubed bread and broadcasts it in a sweeping arc. The birds peck at the bread, bobbing up and down as if bowing in appreciation of her generosity. Now others fly down from the church roof and join in the meal.
When she was six, her mother brought her to the capital to see the main cathedral. It was so large and beautiful. The great stones! And the ceiling was so high it seemed to reach to heaven. At the plaza in front of the cathedral her mother bought a small bag of seeds from a skinny boy, so Angelina could feed the pigeons. They looked funny to her, clucking and hobbling around, their little heads tilting side to side. Her mother explained that the birds were the spirits of people who were searching for something they had lost, and after they found it, they could spread their wings and fly to heaven.
Now, over fifty years later, Angelina feeds these grey creatures, these wandering souls, wondering what it could be they have lost. Self-respect, fortunes, a leg, or are they like her and lost their country?
She thinks of times past, before her husband’s plan of coming to the United States and making a new life, before their long journey from Guatemala, to Mexico, to The Border, before encounters with opportunistic coyotes and power wielding border guards. The same guards who beat her Antonio and left her without a husband in a strange new land. She misses the open-air markets, orchids growing on roadside trees, the abandoned temples of her great ancestors, the song of the marimba.
But most of all she misses her husband, a stubborn man, whose head was full of crazy ideas and dreams. None of which she understood until now. Like the times he spoke of organizing the people to overthrow the government. Or being a bird. He had always wanted to be a bird. “So I can fly above cities of tyranny and corruption with a freedom and grace I have never known,” he had said.
Angelina casts another handful from the shoe box. Bits of bread drop to the pavement like tears. She looks at the feeding birds. “What are you looking for, m’ijitos?” A pigeon with a red thread tangled around one of its legs lifts its head from the crumbs and turns a curious eye to her. Angelina looks at the thread and wishes she were a caterpillar. If I were the size of a caterpillar, she thinks, I would wrap my little body around that thread and be taken high into the clouds. She looks back at the pigeon who is now busy pecking at a piece of crust.
“I’m looking for my husband,” Angelina tells the bird. “He’s been gone for years now and the sad thing is—” her words are interrupted by the first gun shot of the day. Whether the shot came from the gun of a police officer, a gang member, or an angry husband, she doesn’t know. It was blocks away, though, and Angelina knows there is no cause for alarm at this distance, but the pigeons scatter. She looks to the sky and watches grey bodies disperse against blue. “The sad thing is,” she continues, “we never got to say goodbye.”
She remembers the crack of a nightstick against her Antonio’s head and the flutter of wings, the frozen fear on his face, the look of mad pleasure in the eyes of the border guards, and running – so much running. Running from the fat-bellied laugh of corrupt politicians, the emptiness of poverty, the back-breaking work of cotton and coffee plantations, cleaning the dirty houses of rich light-skinned women, and the cold certainty of hot bullets. Running to a better life in a country built on the gold and bones of her ancestors, the acres of lettuce and tomatoes, to garment sweat shops, to cleaning the homes of the rich, to the emptiness of poverty, the worries of a widow. Nothing better than before. Memories and pigeons, her only company.
“Come back,” she looks at the terra cotta tiled roof of Our Lady of Grace. “Come back.” Feathers rustle softly behind her. As she turns to see, a pigeon flies past her like a memory of forgotten dreams and rests on the green copper cross at the top of the steeple. They gaze at each other, eyes fixed in silence. She opens here mouth and a warm whisper is carried in the light breeze. “Good bye.” The breeze fills the bird’s wings and it rises – above Angelina and the playground, above the corner stores and rotting apartments, upward, past the humming power lines, beyond shouts of pain and despair, into the blanket of sapphire sky, and disappears behind a soft white cloud.
The tide of Angelina’s soul surges in her eyes. She sighs and looks at the crumbs scattered across the pathway, then bends over and picks up the pieces and places them in the shoe box, saving them for tomorrow. She walks the path between the church and the school towards the street. A car pulls up and a young girl with long hair the color of chestnuts jumps out yelling, “Thank you, Mommy,” and runs to the classrooms. Angelina smiles and continues walking, wondering how much it will cost to fly home.
Eric is a proud graduate of City College who believes in the power of words to not only entertain, but to express, heal, and affect change.
Meredith Brown is a CCSF student who seeks to interpret her world through printmaking, photography, writing, and interior design.
Rousted at Civic Center
As leaves from fallen lives
Delivered from their thought trees
Gracing the morning moist sidewalks of despair
Between the monuments of culture:
Civic Center’s Main Library
And the Asian Art Museum, alike solemn
Bastions of the tax base
Encamped against the barrier wall
Itself holding stacks of books in and the populace out
Under the protection of Pioneer monuments
Celebrating the conquest of California
Dominated by the Goddess of Victory
And her tamed verdigris, bronze, golden bear
Each with their gaze fixed on the City Hall Dome
In the style of conquerors as only statuary can stare
With a grey pigeon perched on the Goddess’ head
White deposits crusted beneath, accreted, accenting her crown
This the moment, humanely half-seven
When the homeless are roused
Rousted from overnight nests of cardboard and disaster blankets
Raked up by officers wearing baby blue plastic gloves
As a barrier against the contagion of unmanageable lives
Lest our finest be fouled gathering what is left behind on sidewalk,
Stain makers’ leavings, untidy evidence of eking out an existence
As some mothers’ children – many parents themselves – now haggard
Windblown, sundried, eyes glazed to the squint of lost focus
Tumble without conviction to begin a new last day, another rung on a ladder,
Directionless, herded, heedless away, with tattooed emotions licking their pours for salt
As the unnamed, unwashed, unfed, unattended
Slowly disburse along unmarked paths to elsewhere
As they emerge in pairs or alone, with unleashed dogs, guided by scent more than sense
Or tethered themselves to the providence of a wheelchair, or rubber tipped walker
Zombie-shuffle to today, with the past trailing like a wheel across the plains
Ruts cut too deep to close the flesh of the earth, too deep to leave an open mind
As they flow slowly into the community, preachers find corners
To preach the unspoken word to absent audiences
Philosophers serve notice by soliloquy unnoticed by the absent crowds
Indifferent seagulls peck at stirred refuse in competition with the spilt crack harvesters
Workers hose down the sidewalk encampment to still the odor of homelessness
Urine San Francisco someone laughs without glee or commitment
You’re a species of feces another flings a retort
And toothless mouths laugh, glancing sideways
Even numbness has feelings so the paranoid used to say.
Thomas A. E. Hesketh
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on a cusp, in the last half of the last century of the last Millenium. I once saw a meteor explode in the heart of Orion. Otherwise, what has happened to me has happened to other persons, too; so it seems.
I’m an aspiring photographer born and raised in San Francisco. I find myself compelled to document the expansive change our City is going through. In the blink of an eye things disappear, and most are worth remembering. My work can be found here https://www.instagram.com/de_murjian/.
One night after work I asked her if she wanted to go for a drink. I hadn’t slept with her yet but it was looking pretty likely. But nothing had to happen, I liked her well enough just to hang out. While we were in the bar she recognized a waiter she used to work with. She went over to say hello, and came back with a couple of Qualuudes in her palm.
When we got back to the car, she said, “I want to kiss you.”
I leaned her against my car and we kissed.
“I knew this was going to happen,” she said. Like there was some force operating outside of our own volition.
We were going to go to my apartment, but first, she said, we had to stop by this guy’s place to put him to bed. She got paid through the State for helping him out. We pulled up to a sagging little house in a modest working class neighborhood. A ramp that had been built for his wheelchair zigzagged up from the sidewalk to the porch. The house was dark except for light jumping around in the living room from a TV.
He was a young guy, paralyzed from the waist down. Someone had shot him in front of his house one night in a drive-by. There was no explanation for it. He was going up the steps and heard two pops. The second pop had hit him in the back. He didn’t know anyone who hated him. He had a bit of history with drugs and booze and sex, but he couldn’t think of anyone who would want to shoot him. Maybe it was just for fun.
He was sitting in front of a muted TV when we went in. He’d probably turned the sound down when he heard us pulling up to the curb. The sound was muted but from the images it looked like a lot of pops and explosions and yelling going on.
She said hi, and introduced us. He didn’t seem surprised to see me.
She clearly had the run of the place, and straight away went into the kitchen without turning the light on and brought out three bottles of beer from the fridge, then announced that she was famished. She returned to the kitchen, this time switching the light on, but it was still dim in there. It was like light didn’t matter that much.
She rummaged through the cupboards, pulled out a jar of popcorn kernels and came to the doorway, presenting it to us like she was doing an ad.
“I’m going to make popcorn,” she said brightly, pleased with the idea.
He said he wasn’t hungry and was ready to turn in, but we should go ahead and make ourselves at home.
I heard her putting him to bed. There was metal clinking as she removed what must have been braces or something, as she got him out of the chair, then the crunch on the bed from his body weight. There was muffled talk between them, and silences in between.
She took her time. I was a little annoyed at just how long she was taking. I wondered if anything was going on between them. She had told me that he had no control down there, that he got erections, like in the morning, but there was no sensation. I wondered if she didn’t fiddle with him anyway. I would bet that she did, if only out of curiosity. She had plenty of curiosity and genuinely cared about him and he was young and she was young.
She came out from his room, said hi, and went back into the kitchen and proceeded to make popcorn. I listened to the kernels erupting, the shake of the pot on the stovetop. After all the talk, I was looking forward to it. She brought it into the living room on a big stainless steel bowl. With herbs and butter and lots of salt. Herbs, that was a new way of doing it then.
We sat on the sofa, the bowl between us, and mashed popcorn into our mouths with the sound of the TV still off. After a bit she turned to look at me, like she’d forgotten something.
She plucked a kernel from the bowl and tossed it at me, then another. I scooped up a handful and pelted her in return as she moved around the room, ducking. It was all breathless and on the edge of giggling. I gave her a shove onto the couch. The bowl slid to the floor, spilling, her skirt riding up her thighs. Light stuttered from the screen. I hesitated and she read my face.
“He likes to listen,” she whispered.
William Petersen has worked as a musician, a cook, and a video producer for multimedia. He has published in several literary magazines, The Washington Post, and the anthology Fathering Daughters, edited by DeWitt Henry and James Alan McPherson. He is an admirer of Forum and its staff.
I was born in San Francisco in 1943. Except for about 15 years I have lived here all my life. In 1965 I graduated from San Jose State with a B.A. in philosophy. Since my retirement in 2013, I have been attending classes in the Fort Mason CCSF OLAD art program.
when it happens in 2009 you wonder
you wonder if it was
not physically resisting
you must have consented
you tamp it all way down
bury the monster
with mounds of sex
(definitely consensual sex) (definitely bad sex)
the legality changes in 2013
the federal definition of rape updates
for the first time in eighty years
the new definition is
“penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
the United States recognizes that
rape doesn’t have to be “violent”
they don’t know all rape is violent
the Department of Justice removes
the word “forcible”
the phrase “against her will”
in the announcement the Department of Justice writes
“a victim can be incapacitated and thus unable to consent because of ingestion of drugs or alcohol… Physical resistance is not required on the part of the victim to demonstrate lack of consent.”
you read about the updated definition in your feminism class
underneath the mounds of sex
(definitely consensual sex) (definitely bad sex)
a swamp monster arises from the depths
shedding layers of algae and condoms and duckweed
she stands up and dwarfs the wetland
dwarfs the last four years
dwarfs your conviction that you are okay
she starts screaming
she doesn’t stop
you finally consider for a moment
that you were assaulted
that you were raped
that a monster was birthed in you
she won’t stop screaming
you try to keep the course
bury her in sex
(definitely consensual sex) (definitely bad sex)
rebuild the layers
to blanket the swamp monster
suffocate her in sweaty sheets
at least muffle the screaming
the screaming intensifies
you tell someone
you say rape
your friends already know
they were waiting for you
now you want to scream so you do
and you and the swamp monster scream together
neither of you stops
sometimes one or both of you takes a breath to tell your therapist about 2009
sometimes one or both of you quiets a little
sometimes one or both of you stops screaming
sometimes one or both of you whimpers a little
the swamp monster is still here but not as loud
not buried in sex
(definitely consensual sex) (definitely bad sex)
you’re not friends but not enemies either
sometimes one or both of you nods to the other on the street as you pass
acquaintances bound together by shared screaming
Eddy Funkhouser is a queer non-binary urban farmer and garden educator living in San Francisco, CA. Their work can be found in Dirty Girls Magazine, Beyond Bloodlines, Awakened Voices, Stonewall’s Legacy, and Written on the Body.
Yousef is a queer artist who grew up in Iran. After immigrating in his early twenties, CCSF became his home. He found an international community of students, and traveled to different parts of the world. Yousef is a storyteller and his work is inspired by mixing different cultures and traditions.
It was Chrissy that first introduced Alma to Judas Priest one afternoon in the living room of Chrissy’s mother’s apartment. That afternoon, at least, they weren’t friends. Not yet. They weren’t exactly friends, as maybe Alma wouldn’t be quite comfortable calling Chrissy her friend. Not that day. Chrissy had a reputation at school for being tough and being trouble. She’d transferred in half-way through the school year, which made her the subject of all manner of rumors and implications she either didn’t notice or didn’t care to deny. Alma, however, who was not wealthy and not white, couldn’t afford to be a pariah. Though she never repeated what she heard, she didn’t defend Chrissy either.
Allegedly, Chrissy got kicked out of her old school for kissing a teacher. Allegedly, students had seen her drinking at a high school football game with some older boys. Allegedly, Chrissy had a fake ID from Rhode Island that said she was 18 and she used it to buy cigarettes. At least that last one was believable. At thirteen years old, Chrissy was already a tall young woman in ripped jeans and an oversized t-shirt, a men’s flannel tied around her waist. In practice, Chrissy didn’t talk to anyone in her classes unless it was necessary and spent most of her lunches sitting alone on the patch of grass at the edge of the quad or with another boy in their grade who missed a lot of school and always seemed to be in need of a haircut.
In Social Studies earlier that day, Chrissy had leaned over to Alma while they filled out worksheets. “Hey Alma, you should come hang out after school today.” Alma looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Nobody did. In truth, Alma didn’t have many friends either, and nobody ever asked her to hang out after school. She tried to sound nonchalant.
“Yeah, that sounds ok.”
“Cool. We can hang out at my house. My mom won’t be home until five but she can drive you back to your house after. She’s really nice.”
All day Alma wondered how she’d get away with this. Her parents barely let her go to the movies with friends from church, let alone into the home of a white girl who wore lipstick, especially while her mother wasn’t home. During lunch she hoped Chrissy wouldn’t approach her in front of the small group of girls she’d gradually assembled over the past two years. With relief Alma saw Chrissy’s flannel back on its usual patch of grass with her usual lunch companion, Kevin. He held open a comic book and seemed to be laughing.
Instead of boarding the school bus in the afternoon, Alma met Chrissy at the back fence between the soccer field and the custodian’s warehouse. The two walked half a mile through the neighborhood of large stucco houses and across a boulevard four lanes wide in each direction. As they crossed, a driver whistled at them out his car window. Chrissy turned toward the man and yelled out “PERVERT! What’s wrong with you?” and continued to the other side while the man honked his horn. Under her breath she said, “Pervert asshole.”
This had happened to Alma a few times before and always left her disoriented, with a damp heat crawling through her scalp and a cold sickness in her stomach. The times this had happened to her, she’d never dared to confront the drivers. If she was alone she’d run away and hunch her shoulders in an effort to diminish the size of her developing body. Alma saw her own shadow walking next to Chrissy’s and noticed how childlike it looked. Across the boulevard Chrissy stopped in front of a large apartment complex and punched a code to access the front gate. Past a swimming pool and around some landscaped pathways, Chrissy led Alma to her front door. The inside of the apartment was dim and smelled of cat fur and un-vacuumed carpet. Alma followed Chrissy inside cautiously and kicked off her shoes in the entry as Chrissy did. From the dark hallway came the tinny sound of machine gun fire and classic rock music.
“Lame,” Chrissy declared. “My asshole brother is home. He like, never leaves the house.” She shook her head. “What an asshole.”
Chrissy threw her backpack on the sofa and invited Alma to do the same, which she did, though with less enthusiasm. They entered the galley kitchen, the long counter bare except for a finger-print smeared microwave oven and a dusty coffee maker. Chrissy pulled a pizza from the freezer while Alma called home. Her mother answered.
“Ma,” Alma said in Spanish, “I didn’t take the bus home.”
After a deep sucking breath, her mother said,”Oh Alma, why are you so distracted all the time? You missed your bus, and you know your father is working a double shift today. He won’t be home until late and won’t be able to pick you up. You’ll have to walk home and it’s so dangerous out there.”
“No, Ma.” Alma sighed, “I have group project to do, so I’m studying at the library with a friend. Her mom will drive me home around five. Don’t worry. See you later.”
Alma hung up the phone before her mother could ask which library and which friend. Chrissy handed her a can of diet cola and the two sat on the white living room carpet, their socked feet propped up on the low coffee table.
Chrissy slurped her soda. “Wow, you speak Spanish, Alma? That’s so cool. I had no idea.”
“Oh.” Alma tried not to feel embarrassed. “Well, yeah. My dad speaks pretty good English but my mom still… I mean, she can speak English, we just mostly speak Spanish at home. It’s easier for her.”
“Crazy.” Chrissy turned on the television to the music video station. Alma tried not to stare at the screen, to act as if she’d watched the channel before. A young woman pouted against a chain-link fence, tossing her blond hair around in time to pop music.
“So, what kind of music do you like?” Chrissy asked. “What’s your favorite band?” She pulled a binder out of her backpack.
“I dunno. All kinds, I guess.” Alma shrugged. Chrissy was still waiting for a convincing answer. “The Beatles?” then again, more assured. “I like The Beatles.”
Chrissy laughed. “Well, this is my favorite band.” She turned off the television and put a compact disc into the stereo, fiddled with the knobs for a moment and stood back, waiting for the music to begin. Out of the speakers came the most raucous sound Alma had ever heard. It seemed impossible for anyone to play music so quickly and with so many instruments going at once. A man’s voice sang ugly words Alma could make out as being about destruction. Alma had expected Chrissy’s music to be unfamiliar and possibly loud, but this noise was what her parents and their church magazines must have been referring to when they described modern music as Satanic.
Chrissy searched Alma’s face for a reaction.
“What do you think?”
“Um, it’s really fast.”
“Fast? I guess. It’s Judas Priest. It’s like, just regular metal. There’s way faster metal.”
“Oh, no. I mean, I guess I never heard heavy metal before.”
“What? That’s crazy. This album is super old even.”
After a moment, after “Rapid Fire” had started, Alma breathed deeply. “Chrissy, my parents are super strict. They’re not super religious but they are really protective and they don’t let me listen to regular music. Only Oldies. And Spanish songs from like, the 70s.” It was a difficult thing to confess, and she was a little relieved Chrissy had no friends at school, except maybe Kevin.
The two girls sat together, not talking, and gradually the shock of the music wore off. By the time “Breaking the Law” came on, Alma nodded her head along to the melody. She said, “My parents think any music with too many guitars is devil-worshipping. If “Paint It Black” comes on the Oldies station they make me turn it off until it’s over. I don’t even know what they’d do if they caught me listening to this.”
“What?” Chrissy stood up. “That’s so fucked up. You should just tell them to fuck off. It’s just music.” She walked to the kitchen and returned with two slices of cheese pizza on paper plates.
Alma felt obligated to defend her parents. “It’s not that my parents are bad people. They worked hard to move me and my little sister out of the neighborhood where we used to live, just so we could go to good schools and be safe. They’re just really strict. And overprotective. About everything. TV, boys, music, clothes. Everything.” Chrissy shrugged.
They ate while flipping aimlessly through their respective schoolwork, and as the rest of British Steel played Alma could begin to make out the individual words. The guitars soared and the drums thumped in her heart and she realized she didn’t care about society’s opinion of young girls either. Chrissy bobbed her head along and looked pleased. When it ended, Alma asked, “How did you even get into this?”
Chrissy said, “Oh, you know. I was at the record store on 17th street and I felt a calling to it. The cover was all black with a big razor blade on it. So, I stole it. And it’s been my favorite ever since. Judas Priest is totally sick. My mom said they went to the Supreme Court or something because all these kids were listening it and then killing themselves.”
Alma wasn’t sure if that was true, but opted not to doubt Chrissy.
A door opened and Chrissy’s brother emerged from the darkness. He was tall and too thin for his frame, his bony arms hanging out his black t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. He pulled his hair back with a rubber band and sniffed the air. “Did you make a pizza? Maybe you’re not so fucking useless after all.” Without looking at either of the girls, he walked into the kitchen and came back, holding half the pizza on a baking tray and can of beer.
“Fuck you, Jeremy,” Chrissy called after him, but her voice sounded small. He turned toward the living room and looked first at Chrissy, then at the stereo.
“Chrissy, you poser. This is my Judas Priest cd, huh? I’ve been looking for it all week. If you scratch it, Chrissy, I swear to God, I will fuck you up.” He walked back into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
Chrissy’s eyes turned watery and she sniffed. Feeling helpless, Alma offered her friendship. “Man, Chrissy, this is so good I could listen to it all the time. Do you think you could tape it for me?” Chrissy blinked twice and the tears were gone. She sprung from her seat and rummaged for a blank cassette as if she’d been waiting all day for this moment, popped it in the cassette player and re-started the cd. They listened again, doing homework separately, side by side.
Just after five Chrissy’s mother called to say she wouldn’t be home until late. “Shit,” Chrissy said. “I guess I can’t give you a ride home. I’m so sorry.” Her shoulders twitched in her oversized t-shirt. “Do you want to call your parents to come get you? I can walk you home, too, and ride my bike back.” The cd ended again and Chrissy pulled the tape out of the cassette player. “I don’t want you to get grounded or something. What do your parents do if you break the rules?”
Alma took the cassette from Chrissy’s hand before she could stick a label on it and snapped it into her Walkman, which she tucked into her sweatshirt pocket.
“Um, I don’t know. I’ve never broken the rules before.” On the few occasions Alma had gotten a ride home from the library, she’d found her mother sitting on the front porch, smoking cigarettes and rubbing the beads of her rosary. Alma pictured her mother smoking one cigarette for every ten minutes past five, and now at close to thirty minutes past and at least an hour until she could complete the three-mile journey, the pack would be almost gone by the time Alma came walking up the street to her door. What would her mother do? She waved Chrissy away. “Don’t worry about it. What are they going to do- only let me go to school and home and church? That’s my regular life anyway.”
She gathered her books into her backpack and put on her shoes. At the door, Chrissy said to her, “Hey, if you like Judas Priest, I can make you more tapes. I’ll make you another tape tonight and give it to you tomorrow at lunch or something.”
“Yeah, I’d like that.” Alma pulled her headphones over her ears and started the walk home.
Isabel Magdaleno lives and writes in Oakland. She is a co-op member at Adobe Books in San Francisco, and occasionally works toward a creative writing certificate at CCSF. Rapid Fire, 1993 is her first published work.
I first began photographing bands because of the passion musicians display while performing. It’s like siren’s call to the audience it drives us wild allowing us to shed the mundane insane aspects of ours lives. It’s my hope to capture this tribal passion.
There’s a place
called Land’s End
where I stand to look,
clear my head.
I stand there,
again and again.
Never once, experiencing
the same setting twice.
Waves kiss the rocks
again and again.
No two pecks alike.
some drawn out,
others putter off
Off into the harbor,
Fog and the mist set sail
blown forward by
The ocean’s deep breathe,
and rest midway the Headlands.
I hear a crow, a caw
as native fowl sail and soar
before skimming their bellies
across the shore.
The sky falters,
into daylight no more.
The portrait I stand before,
Because what is before
Francesca enjoys reading and writing poetry and short fiction. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, walking dogs, and frolicking in the grassy knolls of Golden Gate Park. She is terrified of birds.
As an active artist, Tyler Graves is mainly a musician, but he also partakes in photography, printmaking, and drawing. Tyler finds inspiration through his wife, cats, and the cityscape/landscape of the Bay Area.
It’s honestly a wonder that anything at all happens here in the afterlife.
I say that not only as a Pleasantly Surprised Atheist, but also because of the truly staggering bureaucracy of all of human history’s souls learning to coexist, with more arriving every day than the day before.
Here’s my experience with how everything works here. On Monday, I saw your hand tremble as you sold the soccer tickets we’d bought together months ago, to someone outside the stadium. When I saw that Jane and Mark were going to come over to watch the game at home with you, I got an idea. I rushed over to the Sports Miracles department and grabbed one of the forms. I crafted a perfect goal: Tie game, in stoppage time. A cross from the far left side of the field. Here comes the striker, leaping up, higher than the defender. The goalie’s outstretched hand is going to get the ball first, but wait! There’s some bend to the kick, and no, no way, the striker’s able to head the ball down and past the goalie, and it goes in!
That was the plan, anyway. I filled out the form and craned my neck to take in the line, which wrapped around the Sports Miracles building. I sighed and shuffled to the back. The woman in front of me asked which team I was for. When I told her, she shook her head. “I grew up watching the other team,” she said. “I guess our miracle requests cancel each other out.”
Then, the man in front of her heard us and joined in. “I’m actually for the same team as you,” he told me, “but I want the team to earn the victory all by themselves. I’m here to ask for no miracles to happen.”
I sighed. No wonder these things happen so rarely. I walked back to the Observing Area with my head and shoulders down, and arrived just in time to see you with our friends, and the game on. Your eyes were moist and you barely moved or spoke the whole time. That was Monday.
On Tuesday, when the beautiful little freckles underneath your eyes tilted downward as you got ready for work, my heart sank. But after the previous day’s debacle, I had no idea what I could do.
There’s the Museary, where I could go to request that the author you like finally gets that next book out in their series, or that the movie version actually does a good job. But I hear that place is really snobby, and they only approve the most subtle of miracles, and almost never to the same artist twice.
There’s of course the Politics Department, but that is crawling with those annoying purists, like that guy from the sports line, and they’re always saying things like “powerful movements only develop in the absence of miracles.” Not helping.
Everywhere I turned, there was gridlock, delays, or committees. I had to find something I could do to make you happy. I finally spotted a building with a relatively small crowd around it, and went in without reading the sign.
Colorful maps swirled on the walls of the huge lobby. Countless globes slowly turned above my head, distracting me until I bumped into someone standing in the only long line in the building, which led into the Large Weather Events Office. I wasn’t going to wait in that.
Up on a balcony above, I spotted a door with just a few people waiting outside. I climbed the stairs, got in line, and only a few minutes later, success! My request to the Tiny Weather Moments Office was in.
As I left the office, I pictured your smiling face when the early autumn breeze I requested would rustle the leaves in the front yard outside your house, carrying the smell of apples, and cooling your ears in the same way the air did every fall growing up.
But later that day, when the big moment finally came, and the breeze met your face, you were still… hardened. Your eyes froze, and your breath quivered. You shook even though it was warm out.
I went back to the Tiny Weather Moments Office on Wednesday, searching my mind to try and cook up something better this time. But as I clicked my pen above the clipboard over and over, what I’d seen the day before finally caught up with me. I have no idea if any of the requests I put in will actually make you happy. I hope they do. But if they don’t, I get it.
So tomorrow, there’s supposed to be a sunbeam reflecting off a perfect, crunchy oak leaf on the driveway as your bicycle tire rolls over it. And the day after that, if they don’t mess this one up, there should be a blended purple and pink sunset outside the window and between the trees, when you need a distraction from doing your taxes. You’re supposed to be able to hear the frogs and the nearby creek at that same time, but the person in the office was kind of inattentive when I’d told him that part, and I couldn’t tell if he really got it or not.
But these moments don’t belong to me. Whatever you do with any of them, is all yours.
Matt Luedke is pursuing a Creative Writing Certificate at CCSF. You can often find Matt either hiking, heading up a steep hill on his beloved sticker-covered hybrid bike in the easiest gear, or bundled up at one of SF’s cold beaches with a notebook and pen.
Jalil Kazerooni is an Iranian artist. He infuses his art with his passion for archeology and history. He sees his work as a way to reveal stories that lie all around us, hidden in cracks and rust. you can find more of his work at instagram.com/jalilkazerooni