Poem of the Day - Archive - August 2020


In the Day, Diamonds Are in the Water
by Nia McAllister


The only time the ocean cut me I bled stories.

They said,
what a beautiful, yet terrifying thing it is to be free.

They said,
We have traveled years to bring you our names.
We knew you’d forget them or worse, never recognize them in the first place.

They said,
Rememory me:
Unfold your tongue, gather in your hand all the cities your foremothers birthed freedom in.
Scatter milkweed seeds in the wind

                                                       and call Us home.

Waterlogged and weary, I bandage my wounds with diamonds
and rise from seafoam memory—homebound.

I have never been far from the page.
How else to learn what moonlight looks like through blue-eyed promises?

Oh but, to be sonia, to be toni,
to be wind in a cotton field scattering marigolds…
I wish I knew Arkansas clouds like I do the lines on a palm
like I do the recipe for forgiveness.

Joy is memory in the refrain, magic too hopeful to stay hidden.
(see the trick to befriending stories is listening after all)

Yet sometimes Belonging cannot be traced by tidelines or railroads carved out of the night sky.
But rather dogeared pages and overdue book fines.
Having a library to owe things to makes one at home, right?

So we write,
we sing,
we rename our story legacy,
before they claim
we were never here

                          in the first place.

Find us on the page, as She said this is the first battlefield we play on.
Here our words dance and so we too leap…into blissful surrender.

and one day we will fly
and one day we will fly.



by Alice Rogoff


Over the fence,
The fig tree leaf
And rose bush flowers
Move closer and closer
To each other.
The green and red
Are lit up by the sun
In synchronicity,
The two flora
Join together, June first,
The day after
The marches and protests
For George Floyd's
Murder by police,
It all comes together
And what does
It all say,
Each day the
Rose and fig leaf
Reach out more?
One thing beautiful
In how disturbing
Life has become.


View Alice Rogoff's work in the Library catalog

Video: Alice Rogoff at the San Francisco Public Library


San Francisco
by Jack Mellender


Appears we're gonna
          hafta gotta care.
The lei lines
The lei lines
Siphon off widespread class tensions
into racist grumblings?
Going squirrely over something
so obviously irrelevant?
Instead of kinda shoring up
           the boat we're always
           in together?
The lei lines
The lei lines
I'm this color so everyone can see
my embarrassment if ever I ignore
the well-being of a shipmate.
The lei lines
The lei lines
are very intersecting here
for friendship
and other forms of love,
        concerted flirtations
        allures in synergy
The lei lines
The lei lines
are very intersecting here,
a place oneself to luckily now find.
The lei lines
The lei lines
are very intersecting here.


by Dena Rod


i hear the cans

and ask

what do we learn from the dead?

our doctors before they were doctors
crept into graveyards at night
unearthed bodies to dissect
and slice into unclaimed flesh
lesson planned by autopsy

every day we’re learning from our dead:
if they are still infectious with rigor mortis?
can they share their organs with the living?

walk a test tube, a genotype split
with a second strain that couldn’t kill alone
but rather intubated complicity down a larynx
as systems shut down / no reset
button to power back on.

a sharp prevalence of the question:
cause of death: natural or accident?
what’s the severity of this loss
other than a magnitude
of learning potential?

is the lesson to never take
that lash falling on your cheek,
the heat of freshly brewed tea
against a sore lip for granted?
we can’t look in the rearview mirror
leaning into every new day
leaving trails of salt as cans
drag through.
we hear the cans.


View Dena Rod's work in the Library catalog

Video: Dena Rod at the San Francisco Public Library


Covid Chatter
by Cara Vida


In the mist of Pandemic
We sit outside at the place we call home
On the street where we live
Catching a wee bit of San Francisco’s summer sun
We speak with our neighbors
Our demeanors tentative and awkward
Behind our face masks
Outdoor voices muffled
Smiles hidden
We do our best to carry on a normal conversation
Nostalgia creeps into our small talk and is gladly welcomed
Hello old friend
All cozy and comfortable
We traipse around common ground
A sentimental journey
Down memory lane
A study in vague wistful thinking
Our idle nostalgic chit chat
Brings us together
Simply a shared paltry diversion in the Year of the Plague


by Pablo Rosales


As I step out to sit on the balcony
The glare from the morning sun disturbs my eyes
As if to scold me
Like a father would a son who has overslept
On a day when there’s much work to be done

But I know Father loves me
So I sit and remain just as I am
Barefoot, shirtless, and lazy
Shielding my eyes from the glare of his disapproval
As he lectures me

About life in general
And how tough things were for him while coming up
How he has to get up early each and every morning
And work hard for every single thing he’s earned
Recounting all his great accomplishments

Meanwhile, I sit and listen
And listen and sit
And sit and sit

I truly admire and respect Father’s work ethic
But I have in fact heard his soliloquy many times before
So my mind drifts and my eyes wander
In seek of distraction

I take notice of all the potted plants
Sitting with me and before me
Along the railing of the balcony
Some two dozen, all in all
Some mine, some yours

Others we bought together while at the nursery
You loved them all back then much more than I
So, I guess that makes them all yours

I happen to notice that many of them have died
Though it should come as no surprise
Knowing they could not have perished overnight
And in hindsight, I watched them die
In passing glances

Yes, die they did
Partly of neglect, for which I am to blame,
Partly from the summer’s heat
Father lecturing them too harshly
While in a weakened state
With little or no water from me

And though I’m sure you do not realize it
You too are culpable for their death
For they were yours
And once beautiful because of you

But like children and pets
They cannot be so easily disowned or disavowed
Once you’ve claimed them, loved and cared for them.
Even if circumstances change their still yours
And despite neglect or abandonment
Their dependency, their struggle survive,
To live and grow, continues
Or fails

Father goes on speaking in rant
His voice fading in and out
As I look at the dead

At their shriveled dirty-brown brittle bodies
Crumpled.  Pitifully dry.
Nested with spiders and their scurvy white webs
Contemptible eyesores to any
Who’ve never witnessed their days of glory

It occurred to me,
“They must have been dead for quite some time”
So I began to wonder,
“Why haven’t I tossed them out by now?”


Maybe it’s because I’m not ready to replace them
With a resplendent new young and alive bougainvillea
That would bring pleasure to my eyes

Or maybe I’m reluctant to return to the nursery
A once joyful place that unbeknownst to me
I’d been purposely avoiding

Not wanting to remember your face and smile
In the colorful bright flowers there
Or to feel shades of your presence
In the subdued light
Or to breath in the fresh oxygen emoted there
Reminiscent of your scent

Or maybe the reason why I haven’t got rid of them
Is because all these plants sitting with me
Here on the balcony
In a mournful way,
Remind me of the love we once shared

A happy love, a sad love
A love both fine and tragic when looked upon as a whole
But it’s finished!
And time to give the deceased a decent burial

I turn my attention to the other plants
That appear to be doing quite well, actually
Hardy souls
Enduring life forms raising up erect
Lifting their semi-translucent pedestals and buds
Like arms and little soft hands
Reaching for Father

I hear Father’s glaring voice again
Coming into the foreground
And I think to myself,
“These are the ones to whom he would grant his approval”

And noticing my line of sight,
Father says to me, derisively on queue,
“Why can’t you be more like them?”

And just like always,
Father knows best


by M.J. Arcangelini


The house has grown tired of
having me around all the time.
It generates sour odors,
thickens stagnant air with humidity,
lays out electrical cords and
bunched up rugs in my path.
It doesn’t care how often
I go out to walk around the yard,
it always grumbles when I return.
It wants its days back, its peace.
I have been in the way too long
with no sure sign of moving on.


View M.J. Arcangelini's work in the Library catalog


by Florencia Milito


Too much fantastical, winged busyness, too many disparate elements cloying for attention—I don’t know when to look & where there is to look away. This clamoring, an assault. The kind of mental fatigue I feel often these days, making me long for silence & the woods. Verde que te quiero verde. So I settle on a close up of the fountain, pink, at once strangely futuristic, conjuring kingdoms of glass & mortar, organic like a strange desert plant, some kind of prickly cacti. It feels almost animate. Can you see the ventriloquism of its dancing limbs? And in a close up, the textures, that circular part where the tiny pigmy owl is perched. I obsess over the perfection of the circle, its grating roundness. The cracks in the pink paint like my aging hand under a magnifying glass, endless rivulets. But it’s the tiny owl that captivates. Its dark pupils. Its yellowed irises looking down at a dark blue wreckage of glistening colored beads, translucent vials. Art critics assert the owl is a symbol of darkness, the devil. But I’d like to scoop it with my hands, cup it to my chest, dear heart that has seen too much, its beady eyes, its quickened anxiety all too modern. Once a poet told me if you were to crack me open you would find a tiny, glittering owl. That night in Caracas when I was five & overheard my parents whispering about my uncle Raúl. Cuando lo mataron, for years afterward terror was the dark, long overcoats of the generals I had seen in newspaper clippings.


by Norma Smith


The full moon
in the week to come.

But the moon wanes instead.
The sea pleads,
tries to pull
that familiar silver face

Toward us.
We are still
here. We beg, We need
your light
to read by.

The rabbit in the dark field
knows where to find
a glimmer
of bioluminescence she shares
with the soft creatures

So far below,
in the oceanic
space. We are coming
for each other.

We have no choice, we learn
to give birth, to breathe
under water, inhabited by

The forms
we abandoned there.

They propose a reckoning, apportioning the terms,
in the first tongues spoken on the land,
learned on arrival
by those who were listening.

This lunar gravity,
scarred but not broken, might re-emerge,
drummed into us again
by a lineage not lost
to the waves.


Traveling to Town
by Duane Big Eagle


When I was very young,
we always went to town
in the flatbed wagon.
We'd leave as soon
as the day's first heat
had stopped the mare's breath
from forming a cloud
in the air.
Kids sprawled in the back
among dusty bushels
of corn and beans.
As we rode down main street,
the town revealed itself
for my sister and me to see.
We loved the brick and sandstone buildings
and the farmer's market
with its sawdust floor.
Best of all
was Monkey Ward
with its large, wood paneled, center room
and the little wires
with paper messages
that flew back and forth
like trained birds.
We finally got to Safeway
where Grandma did the shopping
and Grandpa sat outside
on the brick steps in the sunlight
watching all the grandkids.
From a shady coolness
on the other side of the street
the ice cream store
would call to us
with its banging screen door.
Grandpa always had money for ice cream
and we'd ride home down main street
licking ice cream
watching the town reveal itself
backwards again
in afternoon sun.

(Note: Some people in rural America refer to the Montgomery Ward store as "Monkey Ward").


by Marc Kockinos


German post-modernist philosopher
questions the purpose of poetry
For him: obsolete since Auschwitz
What use is the crafting of words
after exposure to such horrors?

Poems scrawled in the hidden corners
of Death camp Barracks' walls
anonymous as the numbers
tattooed onto 6,000,000 arms
are still whispering their answer



by Brennan DeFrisco


Excuse me—
                yes, you
                             in the room, looking up at me

                                         I have reason to believe you are AMAZING!

                                                                                                                  & here’s why:
did you know you can glow in the dark?

humans are bioluminescent
no matter what color your skin is
this light our eyes can’t detect
lets all the other predators know where we are

                                                                & we all look delicious
                                                                when the moon wakes up hungry

instead, let’s talk about love:
an avalanche of neurotransmitters           moving through you
                                                                              they speed up your heartbeat
                                                                              make it hard to eat or sleep

                                                     (these are the same chemical effects as amphetamines)

                                    we are   literally   addicted to love
in your blood, there will always flow a small dash of gold
you are more precious than you know

& did you know
we share half our genetic code
with bananas?

or that a few of us
                                      can taste the flavor of syllables
                                                                                                    as we speak them?

some women have an extra color receptor or two
             & see more shades of red & blue than men will ever know

                                       Loneliness is physically painful—
                                       the same part of the brain
                                       that makes pain frightening
                                       drives us     to connect,
                                                          to seek companionship
                                                          to feel home in someone else’s arms
                                                                      & feel

                                                                                 l  o  s  t

                                                                                            when you aren’t there

which may explain why your tears act like memories;
             they change shape, depending on why you’re crying

even though around 90% of the cells in your body
have their own DNA & are not

every atom you are
                                                 is 99.99999999%






& none of them              are the ones              you were     
                                       born with                   but all of them                     were born

                                                                         in the belly              of a star

                                                    are so amazing—
                                                                                                 I just thought you should know


           after Terrance Hayes
by Kevin Madrigal


I come from a long line of code-switching enunciations
Gualmar, Cosco, Estánfor, & Piksa Hoot all in my neighborhood
& matter of fact everyone I know works there. I was once asked
to report anything “suspicious” as I drove by a kids toy motorcycle
straddling highway dividers that made me question illicit definitions.
I'm from “hijos de su chingada madre” straight out the
hocico of mi chingada madre. Phrases as sacred, aftermath not
calculated till A+'s in algebra & English teacher scolded parents
nuisance & unfocused & illiterate & diction deficient
"hijo qué dijo tu maestra" y "nada, no te preocupes" translating signs
from English to Spanish soon as I learned to breathe. CA my home
they say it’s empathy’s fault that causes these quakes. I took cover
when the 4.3 hit, sister shouting to stop shaking her bed. My ancestors
whispered in my ear to unfinish degrees advised otherwise, true to blood
that circulates through these frijolero veins. I've been asked:
What the 5 fingers say to the face? What the fajo say to the nalgas?
What the chubby boy say to esteem?  Self-doubt express the only way
I know home. I'm from a technicality, youngest in my family
miscarried unmet sister would have beared a beautiful
first communion dress, instead it was me. My search history reeks
of fermented agave & missing employee names + obituary. South City &
Zapopan raised me. Dutch crunch sandwiches & tortas ahogadas would test positive
in my curly hair, if my culture was considered a drug; a threat. Which it is. I come
blessed like the 15 Virgen de Guadalupes found in my home. They say I never stay put
& yet laid me in a crib. When the morning came I was out the door crawling,
walking, running & I haven’t stopped since.


by Luiza Flynn-Goodlett
first published in North American Review


This isn't some small, curated aquarium

scene, but a visitation from depths more

remote than the moon. Leaning over

the railing, we absorb their benediction—

elephant-ear wings lift wrinkles, stingers

arrest death's dominoes, as when blacking

out on BART, a voice pled, Stay with me.

Next time we will, for the rays that have

come, and all that will arrive hereafter.


Video: Luiza Flynn-Goodlett at the San Francisco Public Library


From Viet Nam to Lost Angeles to the Tenderloin San Francisco
by Charles Curtis Blackwell


The sidewalk
Is equal to an abstract painting
Urine atop vomit
With day old piss atop dried blood
My eyes witnessed bloodshed here
Like Phnom Penh village
The mother wounded and screaming
Her child shot in the face
No screams
Two nights ago there was a shooting
On Golden Gate
Last night a stabbing on Turk St
The blood sunk into the concrete
I still woke up, with images of
Phnom Penh village
The mother, the child, and the blood
Maybe perhaps, one day I’ll be stabbed
Or shot on these streets
Death to erase the memory


View Charles Curtis Blackwell's work in the Library catalog


Sutra of the Threshold
by Lauren Muller


The threshold is a magic mountain
roller coaster ride before the safety bar clanks down.
The threshold is silence. The threshold is throttle.
The threshold is a crystalline pool fed
by melting snow measured by satellite
and polarized sunglasses with infrared filters
found in the belly of a whale with flip flops
X-rays and dentures.

The threshold is the rustle of curtains before thunder
the permit for a disabled parking placard
pulsations in the prosthetic limb
baby bok choy, a clean pathology report
the clock, the alarm, frontline nurses lacking protection
cruise ships shunned at every dock.
The threshold is father and toddler drowned
then found face-down in the Rio Grande.

The threshold is plopping in a puddle, one long form birth certificate
two peregrine falcon chicks hatched at the top of a bell tower.
the Emancipation Proclamation
the pink slip, tent cities, art parties in living rooms.
a pink corsage, a green card
the still small voice
the ballot or the bullet.

The threshold is the ventilator the navel the ember
the tsunami warning, a tinder box
scar tissue scraped from the aorta, the inchworm
plucked by a scrub jay and dropped in a drainpipe
the last tampon the first condom the post-op wheelchair ride to the parking lot
to better luck next time one carry-on bag the goddess awakening.

The threshold is a storage bin
inhabited by broken bicycle chains pregnant with possibility
like morning dew and beautiful dreamers.

The threshold is one arrest too many
many missiles launched today
taking a moment, finding the power strip
the walkers parked next to dining hall tables in a senior home
slipping into something more comfortable
a prickling in the spine and take me to the live stream.

The threshold is shut off your cellphones houselights down
burping, the bottle instead of the breast, smoke, the slip of the tongue, the zipper.
The threshold is a long-handled tool that gets the root with some effort.
The threshold is present in every moment, the moving van, a mentor.
A turnstile to the next line.

The threshold is electrostatic energy
is estuary and a red waxy substance curdling on peach tree leaves
is clear cutting, Idle No More and Amazon Prime
the near miss the long shot the license
the monastic cell the locker room the delivery room  
a wind-fueled brush fire, the necessity of masks
awakening from a three-week covid-19 coma
changing the brand, shifting the premise, a Cadillac breath
is si se puede and this must be the place.


View Lauren Muller's work in the Library catalog


a fabricated heart
by Martin Hickel


warnings everywhere -- but
easily ignored -- should you
pretend to pay attention
a cautious attentiveness saved
like a lucky penny for just
such an occasion -- a stranger
talking to you as if he knows
you & the communicable
disease-in-the-air thing forgotten
for a moment standing here
in line -- his eyes light blue over
the top of a store-bought mask
answer impertinent questions

about what you are doing here
coming to work on lesson plans
for an unknown class at an as-yet
imaginary school with students
who may or may not be there
too many unlikely unknowns
to really offer an answer & even
if you did -- what business is it
of his -- why your willingness
to sit down on this sunny day
together -- hungry birds hopping
under the table snatching at
crumbs fallen from your muffin
blueberry oat but moist & tart

best forget him & attend to
what you are doing -- developing
the reading for an assigned text
you have more than enough
on your delicate hands -- your
fingers you keep curled to hide
ragged nails chewed down by
stress he might notice or care
but he is busy talking -- painting
a picture of himself framed in
a hard & shiny light about how
he has tamed his life & where
on earth he is going to ride it next

what he sees when he gets there
brushing back his sandy hair
combing out the wind of arrival
you could make him your study
earn a degree in artful partnership
abandon your plan for a personal
university of lonely learning
walls tall against the likes of him
but he runs out of things to say
you out of hopeful longings
for the trimmings gatherings
the yarn & needles needed
for knitting a fabricated heart


by Caroline Goodwin


If you show up
today I will open
the door, put on
the kettle. Familiar
as the net-vein willow,
catkin fur
we use for
wicks. At night
I can hear
the roots
beneath the floor. Girl
who sits humming
on the back porch,
tapping her hands
into fins.
If under
the lichens the weevils
are moving,
if under my
palms the water
A faraway flapping.
A trap door,
wind. The ways
in which the river
speaks. Open it up,
you’ll see. You’ll let it in.


My Poetic Elder
by Leroy Moore Jr.
Alfonso R.I.P.


Was young
He, my elder
Both brown
Both poets
Both moving on cripple bodies
At rallies In neighborhood newspapers
Years later
Moving slower
With canes
Still speaking revolution
He was my elder
Poetry brought us together
Activism spoke to each other
I was young
You took me in
New to San Francisco
Met you at cafe La Boheme
You had polio I with cerebral palsy
Race and disability
Originally from Puerto Rico
Spent time in New York City
Way before my family
Pen and paper became our tools
San Francisco Bayview and El Tecolote
Afro Latino words like pouring rain
Poetic journalists for our communities
With your stylist hats & cane
I thought you were so cool
Organized readings just to pull you in
Then we shared the stage In the spotlight roaring our rage
Dot com swept the
Mission Open mic turned into open season
Poets started to fade
You remained
Now I sit here on 24th and Mission
Learning more about you
Poets shouting your name
"Alfonso Texidor Alfonso Texidor......!"


View Leroy Moore's work in the Library catalog


Expelling Droplets
by Youssef Alaoui


Ours was a quiet tragedy
even we knew this day
could not last forever
19 corvid feathers neatly in a row
soft like caterpillars whisper
beyond the mayhem

What does it mean
when every wall creaks
in the house at once and
see how their eyes
even in death seem
to have makeup on them

Past the boat we carved
of mongoose sinew
and partridge dreams
in lullaby tones
you scrape two sticks
together softly
now reach for gloves

No it’s not the light
of the blurry moon
that scratches its head
at the sight of you
tumbling in your ways
just fiercely hacking at
the locks that describe you

It is the glimmer of reality
filtered through thousands
of paper masks purifying
the air that surrounds us
with engines slowly failing
remembering who those people
were that said goodbye
at the door


The Scream
by Genny Lim


I felt a large scream pass through nature.
                                  -Edvard Munch

How could Munch have known 135 years ago
That soundless howl, that cry of anguish
Concealed in everyone and everything
Like some wild, wounded beast captured
In beeswax, paraffin and gum pastels?
The self-annihilation, the powerful and
Beautiful natural order of things
Receding into chaotic flight?
In recoiling terror?
Only the crows and gulls seem to know
Their sinister caws and flapping of wings
Etched in things to come
How did we come to take this route?
If the screech of crows sounds like
The scream of someone being hung
The scream of nature is
The sound of madness
A river at its breaking point
An earth-shattering roar
Limitless and inhuman
Sweeping everything away
Fragmenting memory
Dispatching death
Without justice or restraint
In the time it takes
A pot of water to boil
The cry, the scream
The howl


View Genny Lim's work in the Library catalog

Video: Genny Lim at the San Francisco Public Library


by Scott Bird


Once you try and buy a slice,
it slips away, a mirage, or an enlightenment
waiting for you only in the journey toward it.
 Attainment, all tangibility an illusion;
 all destination a delusion the second
 that the feet stop undulating
and the beat of the yellow zipper
down the middle of the red road
exchanged for routine.

Nothing is tangible, it would seem.
All this happening  here and now
is something you and I mixed up in a
dreamy cocktail shaker last night.
Adding a little this, a little that,
brewing witchy potions together
drinking it all down
until we swirl into each other.

Look! The silver shaker and lemon rinds
are still sweating on the countertop.
Look at the flies! They’re drunk too! Still!
Flying around in circles
sticking to the grease stains
on the tile above the stove.
 They know what we conveniently
came to forget in our hangover of an existence.

They know the party will rage on tonight.
They know about all the beer and the wine
and the vodka and the pot
and the coke and the crossfaded spinning.

Spinning, spinning, spinning round and round
 into the turning lock dot of a keyhole with
the landlord rapping on the door asking for money.
See, there ain’t much of us around here no more
because, well, poetry don’t pay the rent.



Mother’s Day
by Dan Brady


Whose gentle hands
Reach out to receive the bodies
That are brought in …

Whose gentle hands
Bear the simple, folded cloth of white?
Whose gentle hands then wash the remains softly …sweetly
One last time
A blessing of ablution
And who, in silent reminiscence,
Feel a tear
Now and again,
Because of someone’s hair or eyes
Being familiar …
Whose gentle hands then wrap the bodies
Whose lips murmur?

And who, in concert, bear up a corpse
To then lay it gently out for view
Its face set in profound sleep?

Women are veterans all
They’ve been in all the wars
All the time – battlefield or no –
Win, lose or … draw …
Upon them are visited
Those nightmare haunts and aching griefs
Which settle in and
Become memories, memoirs, and mementos, those tokens
Whose silent display tell all that can be told
Without speech.

What do women mean to do for the dying and dead?
What     do they all pray for?

How do they carry it all?
As life goes on
And living becomes    something else,
Which   becomes     anything else
What it   was

Upon a time

How do their eyes          searching
See this world –
After dressing wounds so deep, so red?

How do their hands feel
That which can no longer
Give feelings in return?

Whose gentle hands    whose sighing wish
May well be as         nothing … is …

Just as the care they take is
When tending their own torn sorrows
Or, in sufferance, how    such has at them
No matter how long     or far
Time     or their simple journeys
May take ever them …


Sister from Another Planet: Birth of A Post-Analog Poet
by Yeva Johnson


When I at last succumbed,
it was out of necessity

as the world was supposed to “open up”
and I would have to remain isolated

for an extended period
in my immunocompromised cocoon.

I’m sure you understand why
I had to break down and dive

into the river of electrons, bobbing
and dodging posts and blogs carried  

by the current.  I’ve relied
on the younger generation

to teach me to navigate
the rapids and shallow eddies.

What I hadn’t realized
was how painful this birth

process would be.  I’m
squeezed between coveting

privacy and the threat
of annihilation.  All the

sandy beaches and docks
have been removed, leaving only one

magic internet kayak accessible
solely by web.  Perhaps they are

flushing out the last of the Black and Brown
people from our shelters in space,

we who’ve been on the downside
of the digital divide.  I relinquish

handshakes, hugs, and full-face smiles,
which slip like slick otters from my grasp

as I am squeezed through the social media
birth canal into this intra-pandemic world.


Video: Yeva Johnson at the San Francisco Public Library


No Longer Here
by Sherry Wilson


His name was
Well, it doesn’t matter
Not anymore
He was a neighbor
An older man, just kissing the mark past middle age
He seemed well-worn, well-read, kind, reasonable, warm,
Solitary, but neighborly
He extended invitations to coffee, to talk, to be

Once I was locked in my apartment, contractors were refinishing the entrance floors
When they left for lunch, a chemical sludge blocked my only exit
A frantic call to the landlady set the wheels in motion
In minutes, an invitation was sent by the neighbor
Are you there?!
I could hear him hollering up at the back door
Looking out, there he was
A smiling, bearded, mid-size bear of a man
He was happy to let me hop the fence, with safe passage through his garage
Where a bulk of wood, tools, and carpentry shavings brightened my mood

Through the years his invitations came, from time to time
Not always constant, often spaced; though surely not planned that way
They were delivered with a genuine invitation for company
He mentioned a wife, tucked away somewhere in Marin
All those years between them, married and friends, living under two separate roofs   
There were mysteries that could have been solved

Life barreled on, we waved to one another, said “hello.”
On a trip away, over the Atlantic, word came
He had made a move, went on a journey
It was startling
But I couldn’t tell you why, not really

I stepped out the back door, and peered around to his wide, kitchen window
Inside were all the cups, pots, a teakettle, a dish towel
A few prisms in the window
Everything just how he left them that day.


Plague of 2020
by Mahnaz Badihian


Came crueler than the criminals
more robust than a cannon and a gun
more significant than the world economy
and redder than Stalin’s red army
Corona came with a lesson for all
more important than
the experiences of Rumi
bigger than Plato’s advice
Scared us away to hide
in the holes of our houses all alone
fear of hunger grows in us
more significant than the fear of world hunger
We rushed to fill our shelves
with bread and cheese
fill our bowls with food and seeds
and attack the shops filled with
fear and despair
Corona had ordered us
to empty the streets
to stop our jobs
and build the fear of death
Like a sun ray did not differentiate between
black and white
poor and rich
powerful and powerless
Came to relive the suffocated breath of nature
to calm the wounded plains
to revive the sick nature from pollution
Corona had come to strip us naked
of pride, prejudice, and greed
It was so small
that wasn’t visible
and so big that every day
carried hundreds of people with him
to bury them in a mass graves


Video: Mahnaz Badihian at the San Francisco Public Library


by Roopa Ramamoorthi


Ujjayi breaths, deep inhale and exhale through restricted epiglottis
Calming, slow, to take my mind off other breaths
The 8.46 minutes, “I cannot breathe” of
George Floyd, knee to neck

Of Union Carbide, methyl isocyanate gas leak in Bhopal in ‘84
St. Xavier’s junior college, my friend and I going to the payphone
Calling her mother. Her father had been in Bhopal
but had left in time. Unlike 500,000 others
who could not leave

The creeping corona
My fear of it any minute infiltrating my father’s eighty year old lungs
And his being more than 8000 miles from me
And breath could become belabored,
and gone

And I still sit and go on
With Kapalbhati or fire breath
The quick exhale
Knowing while I breathe
The flames of protest burn
In Oakland and Atlanta, Minneapolis and Michigan
And mixing with the unseen fire of the Corona
Spreading from one soul to the other
A conflagration escalating rapidly

For those who cannot just sit on a cushion
And shut their eyes

And of course the echoes of Rodney King’s
“Why can’t we all just get along”
Me a grad student in LA, blocks of store fronts boarded
Once the riots began after the officers were acquitted

Twenty years, so much has changed
and still

So much not, as I take in
Breath after breath, and moving
to Shavasana
Or corpse pose
For stillness, just temporary
And voluntary
In my case


Video: Roopa Ramamoorthi at the San Francisco Public Library


1st Generation Decolonized Bilinguista
by Josiah Luis Alderete


Listen carefully,
You have to blur your voz.

We must be mindful and make the distinction
that our mispronunciations are not their mispronunciations,
-it is a completely diferente thing to mispronounce something
because you are trying to colonize it
than to mispronounce something because you are trying to get back to it…

Because, you see…
mispronunciations of our historias, our births, our deaths
are vital around here.

So in order to counter that colonized desmadre,
talk with a mouthful of abuelas,
talk out of the side of your mouth that does not speak English or Spanish.
If you can get an ancestor of yours to mumble
I would encourage that.
Shout inside your rib cage so that the espiritus can hear the echo and find their way back here,
so that they can know what kind of place we are in,
so that they know which direction we are going.

Every day practice slurring the words that they have given us,
try to smudge their meaning as much as you can,
you are really trying to get a tone
that allows you to speak to one bone after another,
so that eventually you will have the entire esqueleto in front of you
and without a doubt
it will understand what we ware saying.


Video: Josiah Luis Alderete at the San Francisco Public Library


Poem of the Day
by Abe Becker


                 I                              i          
       thing    like                 p       t            
    only             about      a           a        
  the                              c                 l
               is                            m
                        is drawing
cat faces                                 as my credit
                         card sig
                       s              n
                     e                 a
                     r        u         t

     not hating myself for being poor
not hating myself for hating myself for that
not a therapist in my price range not student loan debt
not trampled greeter costs of Black Friday discounts
not my mom’s dejected response to my response to
presents not shopping for my dad’s urn not sweatshop-
severed fingertips not robocall robots’ HELL-O! not the guy
on the radio displaced by the Camp Fire whose insurance
only covered floods saying they know it won’t flood in
the mountains not homeless encampments under overpasses
not sex traffic not panhandlers’ pets not pyramid schemes
not packaging not the ocean plastic blob not every job I fought
in my deepest self to get out of bed for again not CUStOmeR
SerVIcEVoICe not being pissed the Warriors left Oakland
even though I haven’t been able to afford tickets since they
stopped sucking not people not looking up at breakdance buskers
on BART or the sky not valuing paper stamped with anything
but weird art not Bezos not Amazon rainforest clear cut
not feeling like I can’t ask out my prettiest swipe/match in
months because she listed among her interests nice things
not schoolkids hostage to the gun lobby not weapons exports
not tourists not the shock of the receptionist in Hawaii
when I thanked her for telling me where the bathroom was
the only thing I like about capitalism is drawing cat faces
as my credit card signatures there’s a bakery where I get ½ off
because that’s funny I guess I always wanted them to ask
how I pronounce cat face & sob uncontrollably in response
always wanted to lift the latch on their counter & watch
as they run off I always imagined a socialist cowgirl
waltzing into where I work asking if I want her
to smack me & when I nod she smacks my behind & hollers GIT! not like I’m ever
going to get rich
like I’m free


The Dumb Class
by c. 2020 the estate of Reginald Lockett


They didn’t use nice terms
Like learning disabled to describe us,
the students in Miss Cornish’s
basement classroom
at Longfellow Elementary,
next to the storage rooms
where the janitors
kept big push brooms, mops,
buckets and huge barrels
of industrial cleansers, soap,
and wax.

We were just dumb, retarded,
or slow, embarrassments
to brothers, sisters, and cousins
who disowned us the second
their feet entered the schoolyard gate.

I was the youngest at eight
and the only one in the right grade.
The others were older, like Carlene,
Fresh from Arkansas, who was twelve
In the third grade, dipped snuff,
and chewed tobacco;
Theodis, who was fourteen
In the fifth and kept
being held back because
he spent most of the year
locked up in juvenile hall;
and Billy Boo, was sixteen
in the sixth and wore a wavy process
teased into a big pompadour,
and had a ditty-bop walk.

That year,
While Miss Cornish read
Better Homes and Gardens
And let the class run wild,
I taught myself to write

In longhand and how to do
third, fourth, and fifth grade arithmetic
after the new colored school nurse
discovered I needed glasses,
a pair of glasses.


View Reginald Lockett's work in the Library catalog


One Star
by Janice Gould


One star gleams above the dark edge of the mountains,
One star or one planet, bright with reflected light.

One moon shines down on the valley west of here,
Floating in hazy clouds. One bird calls from the piñón,

Only one, and one mountain, far south, snow on its flanks,
grows distinct in the dusky glimmer before dawn. I wish

I had tobacco and sweet grass to make an offering to the night,
to give myself fully to prayer, to reside in the song of that bird.

I want to be without words, without speech, to find my way
into a language so fine it becomes nothing but melody.


View Janice Gould's work in the Library catalog