Poem of the Day - Archive - October 2020


do the work
by Maureen Morrison


stop and see blue and green, and dots of golden red
you're doing the work of poets now
the most magnificently magnificent finally
the stars align
well, maybe...but wait
dogs bark, growl
in the distance a t.v. drones
a radio mumbles no one around
finally you remember
how 'bout now?  jump
bam! land hard but happy
climb, grab, push, swing
free fall drop plop dirt again
no one tell me what to do
fly for the count of two
far far away
right here on the living room couch
we have the advantage of being



Suntanned, Windblown


To remove the skin of a rabbit, you cut a hole
In the back and tear, working your fingers under
The fur and out like you’re ripping open a package
Of taffies at the shore, the salty sea air making your
Hair curl, be quick, quick as the thing, the hard part is always the head

To remove the skin of a deer, you have to go slowly
Technique is important, keep your eye on the knife
not on the iron hooks hanging from the ceiling
Don’t let the clink of chains fill your head
Start at the back leg, follow the tendons
Learn the release of skin separating from muscle
From fat, split it, like the back of the leg
Is coated in the most erotic of stockings.

A bear is a bit like a human, you start at the wrist
The curl of the paw out-stretched, handshake
Split the fur like parting a sea, seam on seam on seam
Meet at the throat, jaw, snout, highways of the body.

The meat will glisten too, pink and white
Soft angelic like Easter lilies. You’ll be surprised
At how the meat is stored, the legs mostly bone
Cut knuckles, snap tibia, the symmetry will rock you to sleep.

When you cut off your own skin, you won’t be able
To just tear open and out, snap a leg bone after
Gliding through tendons, careful to avoid the rump meat
It doesn’t begin with the knife, it begins in the car, day
Four, two more than the map said because you’re lost
So incredibly lost, and your car is a classic Chevelle
Not built for long trips, and the crook of the neck
Of the girl you love is louder than the radio

You pull and tug at your exterior in the hotel rooms, at the sites
Where she runs out and says take my picture
And you pretend that the camera is the eye you
See her through, the concave glass lens the thing
sees her the most, stark, arms out, shadow among cacti
She can feel everything, her sides pushed in from
The world, and you stand with your camera
And your skin worked off with a knife, limp in your
Hands, limp in the heat, praying she’ll eat you or wear you


Fondling Strings


A camel
descends a California hill
in the fall.
Peggy Lee
matches his graceful stride,
Is that all there is?
My woolen socks
hearing her tones.
I can feel them tell me:
We will never
tire no matter how far you walk with us,
if we hear
those tones, those plaintive sounds
that first moved me
in the Ventura Symphony,
a quarter of a century ago,
the wife
of my old classmate played.
Twenty years later
I watched
a movie about gangs in America.
There was a score
so unlike what was on the screen.
Who was playing
this instrument that stood out over others?
He had the name
for such an unusual playing, Yo Yo Ma.


7 Deadly Sins


Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned

Lord, forgive me for the sin of pride
For finally being proud of who I am
Or, forgive me for ever being
And pray, Lord, that I might be nothing, nothing at all.

Lord, forgive me for the sin of envy
For being envious of those who can live their lives
            because they are the chosen ones
Or, forgive me for raising my eyes to see what might be
And pray, Lord, that I might be nothing, nothing at all.

Lord, forgive me for the sin of gluttony
For even living a little
Or, forgive me that I want to live at all
And pray, Lord, that I might be nothing, nothing at all.

Lord, forgive me for the sin of lust
For even wanting to love, feel love
Or, forgive me for ever knowing that love could be
And pray, Lord, that I might be nothing, nothing at all.

Lord, forgive me for the sin of anger
For being made by you, in this way
Or, forgive me for ever realizing
            that there might be another me to be angry about
And pray, Lord, that I might be nothing, nothing at all.

Lord, forgive me for the sin of greed
For wanting to be able to want anything
Or, forgive me for wanting so little
And pray, Lord, that I might be nothing, nothing at all.

Lord, forgive me for the sin of sloth
For my ability to move ever so slowly
              from where I am to where I might be
Or, forgive me for ever trying
And pray, Lord, that I might be nothing, nothing at all.

And, Lord, make me in your image
For that will make me the same
As the rest who damn me.

And, for my penance, Lord,
I will allow the others to do unto me
That which I cannot do unto them,
Forever and ever, Amen.


July 28, 2020
by Diane di Prima 8/6/34-10/25/20


so I am printing out poems to send to the 26 magazines who want them
or say they do
I figure I’d better get on it while I have the time
my book is done
at Viking even now getting messed with in unthinkable ways
and I have the time and I better use it
yesterday I went to visit a friend who’s dying and that always reminds me
get the poems out while you can, you know
and everything else for that matter
not to mention I had a dream last night that wasn’t so good

so I am printing out poems and the phone rings and it’s someone from the Examiner
and only this morning I read the Examiner will soon be extinct so I wonder
how the guy feels about that and I pick up the receiver
he says he heard Gregory Corso died last night and he wants a quote
they always want a quote and usually I ignore them
but this time I say he had the greatest lyric gift of any of them
Allen, Jack
the greatest innate genius

yeah says the guy but you know genius and discipline don’t often go together
I have discipline the guy says but no genius
I have just finished printing a poem for Sharon Dubiago and want to get on with it
before we all drop dead, you know? so I tell him to call Allen’s office
Allen will still have an office after we’re all gone
and that office will have quotes for everything I am so grateful
and he wants to know about Gregory’s time in San Francisco
and I tell him to call City Lights and then I hang up

by this time my printer is spitting out old haikus
I only have 68 poems and 25 magazines want them or say they do
and I want to send at least three poems to each, so they’ll have a choice
and I’m trying to figure this out do the math when the guy calls back

he says he got thru to Allen Ginsberg’s office and the woman who answered
said only “He Breathes!”
that’s good I said and thought about Ray Bremser
and Jack Micheline not breathing and my friend in Mill Valley and all the rest
me too, soon “She Breathes No Longer” they’ll say and somebody
will mention my lyric gift but no discipline
and what a bitch I was     so I get my sweater
to go to the Asian/ American Restaurant, it’s Chinese/ Peruvian actually
but suddenly I decide I don’t want to leave the house
so I cook some pasta and think about Gregory breathing in the midwest somewhere
and while I keep writing the pasta is getting cold
and I can’t help it I wish I could send him some ziti with summer sauce
and Sara Raffetto my friend breathing not so good
Allen too
and he wasn’t even Italian


Watch Diane Di Prima's inaugural address as poet laureate:

View Diane Di Prima's work in the Library catalog:


Rest in Power
Diane di Prima
August 6, 1934 - October 25, 2020
The 5th Poet Laureate of San Francisco


Dear Diane,
We heard you'd left
Sitting at the kitchen table
Eating ziti
Reading a death poem you wrote about yourself
Twenty years ago
In which you are eating ziti
Or maybe letting it get cold
And the coincidence
And the people you knew better
And that class in a room designed by Julia Morgan
Your memories
And mine
That met in an arc
Just as unlikely as this

  • San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck


Watch Diane Di Prima's inaugural address as poet laureate:

View Diane Di Prima's work in the Library catalog:


Poem of the Day
by Arisa White


At the darkest hour, there is no demand to show, to
dissemble, to give, I unhook my breasts to spill to gravity,
sink into the bath. Orange blossoms stick to my skin like
mother’s kisses and overdue apologies. Peppermint soap
mentholates and constellates my anterior—stars go
through the Florida water to shine. Deep breaths open
my tight chest, and I feel how running has taken more than given.
I rub my heart with the heel of my palm, and my heart stays voicing,

                                Find your father
                                Find what’s missing there
                                Find what is enough
                                Find yourself whole
                                Forgive and be forgiven


View Arisa White's work in the Library catalog

Video: Arisa White at the San Francisco Public Library


from 100 Words
by Damon Potter/ Truong Tran



i like beginnings much more than middles. i also like ends. i like the wends and passing a lobby. i like my dont drink its a new hobby just like a train car. trains are beginnings they also have bends and in between cars there is a hitch jointing a middle and inside a middle must be an end and also beginnings. beginnings an end.

I once spent a year writing three stanza poems. Each time I thought I arrived a finished work, I forced myself to cut the first and and third stanza. I wanted a book of beating hearts. I was cleaning my closet the other night. I found a folder beneath at least 12 other folders, inside was the carnage of heads and legs still kicking and screaming.


View Truong Tran's work in the Library catalog

Video: Truong Tran at the San Francisco Public Library


by Garrett Murphy © 2020


Now we’ve just seen everything;
We’ve gotten a complaint from (believe it or not) a fly.
That fly claims to have been set up for near-poisoning
It was flying about thinking it’s found a smorgasbord.
It landed alight upon what seemed like a feast
And stayed on and stayed on In front of a live audience even!
Only it turned out to be a bust!
BLEAAHH it was nearly poisoned!
They had some nerve passing that slime off as a banquet
Poor fly thought that head was dung delight
But it turned out to be some miserable s-head!
Now we’ve just got to figure out
How to issue a refund to a fly!
(Maybe we’ll stick it on Pence’s tab instead.)


View Garrett Murphy's work in the Library catalog


How Grief Sometimes Loses Course
by Hilary Brown


It intersects at incongruous places, now crosscutting
humor, which has always been what you supposed
a parallel. It brakes and slows and finds itself
ridiculous. There you are crying on the toilet
and grief is there, pushing your hair back
out of your eyes, asking you whether your lost one
would like that new holographic lip gloss
or how it feels not to be able to send her the picture
you took of a kestrel, the unexpected soft red
of his breast. Ever sarcastic, ever tender, ever
speaking in your own voice. Your new companion,
marriage indissoluble and only mundane, a partner
to watch during breakfast over a spoonful
of softening cornflakes.

originally published in When She Woke She Was an Open Field (Headmistress Press, 2017)



Where the Wild Ruminations Are
by Georgina Marie


An iris mountain stands parallel to the snow tips
of other nearby hills
a drive out of state
a sunrise brewing
this is the place where forgiveness grows
As if a lost city in this wild nature
as if the city lost to material things and dissident living
turned into dirt and animal land
elemental necessity

A terra incognita, colorful and muted
rough and smooth, quiet and intense

Traveling along a state of disrepair then repair
I stop to sit mountainside
considering the ingredients of life to shovel
into the ground
pieces of gold into the cracks of a broken body
fragments of feathers to fill the holes of a human heart

A spirit-crafted prayer speaks
of the crushing of onyx and obsidian
of the cutting of bones and bones
and the sifting of it all into the earth
a humming presses into the cold dirt
a drumming sound pumps into the silence

This is a letter to my fear, deconstructed
a word-painting of little white roses and little white crosses
lined up in neat rows to represent the dead
the dead that keep walking along my path
the dead that have died a thousand times
before their bodies followed suit

When the roads were taken, the paths cut off
and they mourned the act of being mourned
when they had not forgotten
when they had not forgiven
and I have not forgotten
and I have not forgiven

We were all born from constellations
constellations shaped like Mexico
depth as rich as our Mojave blood
from original lands but never revered as such
not now, nor in the afterlife

I hide invisible prayers in sewed up pockets
to ask for forgiveness
to unpack my own entangled bones, to give up the ghosts
to remain soft, to honor storylines
to remove the flowery pain I wear like an old dress
to believe despite lifelines of pain my heart is not made of raw stone
but warm honey

The amber liquid solidifying to become a kind of archeology
a fossil of beauty in this agony
found everywhere: inside a language
inside a refuge of umber skin
my love the color of rhubarb
even when hidden deep down and hard to bring to the surface

Yerba buena stopped growing from my mother’s hands in 1995
now I fill a used blue bottle with wild oats in a wild clock
reconciling time lost and time revived
I drink history, begging my backyard environment
of geranium and oak trees
of aloe and dahlias to take me with them
to see me through their lens, to tell me I deserve to deserve

To be
where I am
where I am


This is a poem translated in English and Spanish


by Adrián Arias, San Francisco, Lima, Madrid, 2005-2013


Piel: Suave envoltorio que contiene 206 huesos, un canto de pájaros y las ganas de un abrazo.
Abrazo: Reunión que no está escrita en las agendas.
Agenda: Pretexto para escribir tu nombre y pensar en tus caderas.
Caderas: Yuxtaposición de locura y razón.
Razón: Gigantesco monstruo de mil ojos que quiere ganar todas las batallas pero siempre huye ante el fantasma de la Atracción.
Atracción: Equipaje de mano de la pasión, ver “Ganas”
Ganas: Traviesos animalitos que desean perderse en el laberinto de tu cuerpo, aunque a veces sólo se quedan en el cerebro.
Cerebro: Acumulación de nubes que no encajaron en ningún cielo y ahora comparten el ruido de un mismo cuerpo.
Cuerpo: Antigua arquitectura, blanda y cavernosa en donde se han dibujado las escenas de caza que nos sirven de ejemplo para seguir coleccionando cicatrices, fluidos y orgasmos, ver “Anatomía”.
Anatomía: Alucinación del alma, ver “Soledad”
Soledad: Recurrente compulsión de las manos que viajan inconscientemente al mismo sitio de siempre en el cuerpo, y que no pueden llegar a rascar ese lugar inalcanzable en la espalda.
Espalda: Mapa secreto del universo, que se abre con el beso.
Beso: Puerta de entrada a la locura.
Locura: ver “Piernas”.
Piernas: A veces puente, a veces abismo, siempre tentación.
Tentación: ver “Cuello”.
Cuello: Esquizofrenia del codo y sublimación de la pantorrilla.
Pantorrilla: Súbita tentación de los dientes, mientras las manos siguen subiendo hasta los senos.
Senos: Planetas perfectos que al desnudarse siempre te miran a los ojos.
Ojos: Cuando los cierres, por fin me encontrarás y cantaré para ti…
La la la la la la la …
la la la la la la
la la la la  … hoy día mi cuerpo es una canción.


View Adrián Arias work in the Library catalog



by Adrián Arias, San Francisco, Lima, Madrid, 2005-2013

English version translated by Nina Serrano


Skin: Soft wrapper that contains 206 bones, a bird song  and the desire to embrace.
Embrace: Meeting that is not written in the agendas.
Agenda: Pretext to write your name and think of your hips.
Hips: Juxtaposition of madness and reason.
Reason: Giant monster with a thousand eyes that wants to win every battle but always flees before the ghost of Attraction.
Attraction: Hand baggage of passion, see “Wants”
Wants: Naughty animals who want to get lost in the labyrinth of your body, although sometimes only stay in the brain.
Brain: Accumulation of clouds that don’t fit into any sky, and now share the noise in the same body.
Body: Ancient architecture, soft and hollow where they have drawn hunting scenes that serve as an example for continuing to collect scars, fluids and orgasms, see “Anatomy”.
Anatomy: Hallucination of the soul, see "Loneliness"
Loneliness:  Recurrent compulsion of hands unconsciously traveling always to the same site in the body, and can not get to scratch that unreachable place on the back.
Back: Secret map of the universe, which opens with the kiss.
Kiss: Gateway to the madness.
Madness: see "Legs".
Legs: Sometimes bridge, sometimes abyss, always temptation.
Temptation: see "Neck".
Neck: Schizophrenia of the elbow and sublimation of the calf.
Calf: Sudden temptation of the teeth, while the hands continue up to the breasts.
Breasts: Perfect planets, when undressed always look you in the eyes.
Eyes: When you close them, you will finally see me and I'll sing for you…
La la la la la la la ...
la la la la la la
la la la la ... today my body is a song.


View Adrián Arias work in the Library catalog


Rockets with Rear-View Mirrors
by Jennifer Hasegawa


They found a lack of life
on one of my planets, despite the presence
of blood and water
in the soil.

In space,
as in most things:
Go slow
to go fast.

They want to colonize Mars
because it is the closest thing they have to home. I
want more than an extra 39 minutes. Venusian nights last
100 days. Give me
this century to comb
through the sweet oil of its atmosphere,
survey its darkened
lava fields.

It’s hot,
but not hot enough
to melt our resolve
to really fix it this time.

Propulsion units burn out,
disengage, and drop
to lower orbits.

Molten language
pollinates the voiceless
to birth the supernatural.

Astounding alien, clean progenitor
of the new tongue
of the ages.

are here.


Video: Jennifer Hasegawa at the San Francisco Public Library


by Baruch Porres-Hernandez


When the first people that ever stepped foot
onto what is now called San Francisco, arrived
I welcomed them with a cold wet kiss. Rolled
over the hills and sand dunes, rested softly
on their heads, circled their feet. I became, so thick,
they couldn’t see their hands, made them feel
like they had disappeared. I still love making
the temperature drop, clasp my hands over the sun,
laugh as people hopeful for summer hug themselves,
protecting their nipples from me. They go home
come back warmer dressed, light a cigarette
and walk around smoking in my drizzle.
Children run around in the city at night
weave through street people as if they are trees
jump over the sleeping bodies on sidewalks,
mothers walk slowly after the busses stop running
as they pray, I slowly follow them. People,
I remember them before they built the buildings
and roads. See the young ones pressing their gadgets
and phones, just like fingers once pressed into sieves,
searching, working, thirsty for gold.
When I lay myself on top of this almost island
I give them a message of things to come
Not earthquakes, or fires, or waves from the sea,
but the cold. The cold is coming. One day,
a great change will bring an endless frost
cover the city with snow, turn its hills into
pillars of ice, and the last people to ever leave
the most beautiful city in the world, will carry it
in their chests, glowing like lanterns
When that time comes, I will become heavy
I will become homesickness, follow them
everywhere they go, a reminder of the place,
where they found their hearts.


View Baruch Porres-Hernandez's work in the Library catalog

Video: Baruch Porres-Hernandez at the San Francisco Public Library


Villanelle: 2012
by Owen Dunkle


The day is as calm as it should be
The stars smile because we are here
The night to-be is as dark as the sea

The sky at the beach blue and, me,
My friend, it is that, ah, my dear,
The day is as calm as it should be

The calm is as calm, the key
To her heart is not clear
My mind is as dark as the sea

Tonight the stars are love. Tea
And nectarines are symbols, mere
Calm on waters, today as it can be

Close to dusk, passion, quiet. Tree
And squirrel dance together. For near
Tonight to be is as dark as the sea

Can’t speak. Slowly, slowly we
Accept. The dawn and sky. Fear
The day as calm as it should be:
Tonight my mind is as dark as the sea.


Once I Suddenly
by Cinthia Lozano


Once i woke up in between the wrinkles of a tree
i walked along her center
following her aging lines
this road seemed to curve, walking along the edges of her thighs

Suddenly, i found myself crawling on my hands
and knees
stepping with care i moved forward and slowly felt myself turning
turning into something other, i felt my heart flutter
i felt my body tingle
I felt numb

Once i woke up in between two glorious mountains the color of cedarwood
i rested my body closing my eyes slowly
i walked on her curves with my lips to her floor

my hands made of feathers each finger touching
sweet air
following the North Star
i felt

Suddenly, i found myself in another's fantasy
stepping awkwardly into the depths of no truth
into a world unknown
i felt ashamed
i felt like an undone thread
i felt a paranoia so thick it covered my third eye

Once i woke up in a hospital bed naked
and strapped to the frame
Once i woke up dreaming, jumping portals
Once i fell down into the depths of the ocean

Suddenly I’m here between the wrinkles of a tree


Typa Place
by Rohan Da Costa


I burned my tongue on an onion ring
I was thinkin’ of a prairie
Typa place you take yo’ shoes off
“Not in” grandmama’s livin’ room
Not so different from that look in yo’ eyes
When you done gone mad in a mad city
And you so stir crazy that it hurts lately

All you wanna do is run wild
Like you ain’t been taught nuthin’
Typa place I lay my head down
Face to face wit yo’ soft side
I be tryna talk some sense to yuh

Befo’ I gih yuh duh world I gotta know
What iss hittin’ fuh

You suck yo’ teef and shiver by the radiator
You say yo’ supervisor don’t like yo’ attitude
You say you don’t like huh lazy eye
Who duh fuck she lookin’ at?
Who duh fuck she think she talkin’ to?
She need tuh worry ‘bout huh boyfriend
And why his hands got huh
Lookin’ like Kung Fu Panda every otha Monday
We agree on “Oh well”

You huff and puff
While standing in the heatwaves
A melting snowflake slides down your neck
“You so pretty
Juss like a chocolate bunny on Easter Sunday”

You put a square to yo’ face
And dream of ancestral planes
You open your eyes to food deserts
Fraudulent niggas and scams
And the only typa pyramids
“They” could manage to arrange

I say quit playin’ and come to bed
Let us perform a ritual,
Let us chant with our private parts poking out

We ain’t got sage but we got incense
I bet if yuh quit complainin’ you could hear da ocean

I stubbed my toe on the auction block
I was thinking about family values
Fantasizing ‘bout Rihanna
I was seeing jets over Mesopotamia
Typa place I lay my head down


“Typa Place” was just published by The Racket Journal and Quiet Lightning. It has been nominated for a pushcart prize by The Racket Journal.



Every Place Breathing
by Joyce E. Young


A doorway opens in dark, wet, earth.

Dig in and grow, or not.

Maybe just burrow and sleep, or not.

Welcome coolness on a hot day.

“Triple digits” some chirp above ground.

I recline with worms and snails,

safe from auto dealers,

no other way to make a way.

Animals on their backs, ice in our hearts.

We are part of this, too - shirts made in Jordan,

“Save the whales”  hoodies,

None of this static or solid.

Some speak of molecules vibrating.

We pretend all is solid.

Table, chairs, wood, veneer,

Every bit breathing.

We hold our breath, think it will save us

Dark, wet, earth fold us in, keep us safe,

Every place breathing.

Promise you will help, not  hurt.

I want to live, want you to live.

I am not I.


Pandemic Walk
by Lynne Barnes


We try, but I cannot relax
along the wide trail at Inspiration Point
in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area,
even as it gifts us sprawling views at the edge of our city.
The trail is a Wild West of un-holstered breath.

We almost give up and return home to our back yard,
wild itself in its green volunteer growth,
bee sanctuary in the midst of the tiled, coiffed
back yards all around us.

The grateful bees visit
what blooms naturally there every spring,
twining through our neglect and laziness—
graceful scoops of calas, bowing fuscias,
buttery oxalis, burnt-orange nasturtiums,
fragrant lavender whorls and jasmine stars.

But we drive on, determined to walk
beyond our cramped yard, come to a place
that forbids joggers, bicyclists, dogs,
a place where we are the only two humans in sight
walking peacefully in a white, stone forest
away from our present-day Mask/No-Mask Civil War.

Pristine, sun-drenched rows of uniform tombstones
surround us as we walk through the nine acres
of this San Francisco national cemetery shrine.
Eucalyptus trees also catch the sun and sway
as a friendly fence behind us.
We silently honor the 26,425 dead buried here,
a gasping visual fraction of our present-day losses.

We hug and watch cloud-like sailboats,
tucked beneath a backdrop of
meandering green and gold mountains.
Like water strider insects, the boats skate, skim,
glide across the royal azure of the bay’s windy waters,
their sails— healing, hopeful semaphores—
signal something rose-colored through the haze of our anxieties.
We drive back home to shelter in place once more, holding on
to the sailboats’ wispy, canvas, zig-zag messages of exuberance.


View Lynne Barnes's work in the Library catalog
(former SFPL staff member!!)

Video: Lynne Barnes at the San Francisco Public Library


Feminism is a Class act
by Rocio Evans


We are not angry women
We are justifiably angry women

We don’t feel we need to smile,
As barbie dolls, all the time
We are in touch with our feelings

We insist on being taken seriously at work
We don’t apologize for standing up for ourselves

We have a right not to suffer verbal sexual harassment at work
My colleague Patricia bought pink and magenta silk pillows,
to decorate her office
She was accused of creating a love palace, by our boss Frank
She didn’t need to suffer remarks like this
Human Resources did nothing

We haven’t come a long way
This is a conservative argument,
Designed to deny our subtle and not so subtle oppression

We don’t want to be like men
We reclaim our femininity,
as the source of power that it is



Cartography of the Caribbean
by Susana Praver-Pérez


Once, during “the discovery”
mapmakers placed Borinquen
           at the center
           of the New World.
North America, not fully explored
           was mapped like a snake dangling above
           the island renamed Puerto Rico
           for riches the Spaniards found.

The snake grew voracious teeth.
Gold was devoured.
            Ore became sugarcane
                        then petrol
                                              a tax haven
                                                         a post-hurricane clearance sale
                                                                     Se Vende signs seen everywhere.

So, it sounds like old news when geologists explain
shake after shake of earthquake swarms–

             The North American plate is pushing hard
             against the Caribbean, apretando
                        till fault lines jolt
                        rocks explode
                        and Boricuas with frayed, singed nerves
                                    feel they’re about to implode.

Houses built on pillared legs
             fall to their knees.     
Schools collapse
             like tents of cards.
Thousands of people sleep under the stars, afraid
             they’ll be crushed by their homes.

And every blackout chafes
           half-healed wounds
           a year without light
           months without water
           weeks of waking to tell your daughter
                        eat your rice mi amor
                        no hay nada mas.

Cascades of disasters reshape
                        inner landscapes
             like swarms of quakes reshape
                        Puerto Rico’s topography.

In just fifteen days, the city of Ponce sunk
           fifteen feet, slid westward towards the setting sun.

On Día de los Reyes, Guayanilla woke
           to find Punta Ventana shattered–
                      porthole in the stony cliff
                      now jagged row of teeth.

And in Guánica, point of entry when the U.S. invaded in 1898,
                      the ocean trembles.

On the shore, a woman watches
                      a meteor streak across the sky.
             Her house is a mound of rubble
                       but she’s still standing
                                  listening to the coquis
                                             singing in the mangroves.


Video: Susana Praver-Pérez at the San Francisco Public Library


Cerro Azul
by Jonas Cabrera


The subconscious like a devout follower, fires up Jarocho soundtracks minutes before the bell is rung, announcing her death.
It’s been twenty years
Since I sat sandwiched knees huddled well up to my chin, crouched in between my mother’s backrest and the back seat of the car.
I remember getting the news
Crying for someone I didn’t really know
Not really
Despite what photograph fomented memory informs me twenty years ago I was only three.
And although part of me clings hard to memories I want to be true
Those moments making sopes in the kitchen surrounded by cinder block walls, may or may not have been.
A three year old does not really remember
Does not Know someone
But that’s only the half of it, the other half of me is sure
Sure about the prism colored parrot, holding service in the courtyard outside those kitchen walls
I remember
Running in and out that house like corridors in some young boy’s imagination, illuminated by thoughts of castles and adventures.
My moat was a half flowing arroyo soiled by plastic bags and feces
colored like it smelled.
I remember the toilet in the bathroom separated from the main house
A raw faucet with no shower head, a toilet with no lid and a bucket for running water
The half finished steps in obra gris
Leading nowhere in particular like an Escher painting, plastered on top of every sun beat building surrounding the vecindad.
The great banana palm leaves, hovering over the back door.
I remember ducking, running through them, across the kitchen threshold,
secret entries everywhere.
Through the round kitchen and living room, the TV spitting out novelas
As heavy hand carved wooden couches watched in repose, and into the bedroom next door.
Fans blowing every hour of the day, the buzzing humdrum coloring a clammy night in sync to the humming of mosquitos
As tias, sobrinas y sobrinos huddled sweaty into three or four weary beds, with creaking springs stifled under the humidity and rust
sweaty, with the night’s foils.
I remember you abuelita, despite what a three year old boy’s imagination might tell him
So I listen to Jarochos, somehow knowing, somehow waiting for that call, informing me of the anniversary of your death.


by Rosemary Manno


The woman at the end of Railroad Flat
always makes a real fire.
She serves fresh cooked beans every time.
Her family loves each other’s company.
I remember childhood family recreation
all I wanted to do was escape.

So many stars
our sky explodes in white jewels
a meteor shower begins
our sky glows
on a soft night of long light
on the eve of summer with the animals.

The bears will descend the mountain
as soon as we’re in the tent.
We pee outside for the last time ‘til dawn
the mosquitoes stay away
perfect conditions
with quiet neighbors in the distance

Now come with me to the river
I’ll wash your feet
dry them with sand
buff them smooth with my t-shirt
before we enter the tent
for the balmy night under the stars
I’ll retell the prayer of the night before
may the deep heat return
swollen with love
may the birds awaken us.


by Steven Gray


Getting out of bed
I have to brush the sentences out of the way,
they hang from the ceiling like cobwebs.
I am haunted by the radial connections in the mind.

I go to work, where there is much ado
about forensic gunshot residue analysis.
The criminals are everywhere and each one gets
a psycho-social needs assessment:

socially I need to shoot you,
or something to that effect.
There are addicts in the alley,
they are ambulatory in their wreckage and the
courthouse is across the street.

They wallow in their own humanity,
a hall of broken mirrors
where you give up in perspective
what you gain in immersion.

Dropping by a reading after work,
it’s in the Tenderloin, I listen
to a few surreal rebels on the cutting edge
of ink and incoherency, the incorporeal
rapport of pinkos in the poorhouse
and a population living in a limbo of the
audio-visual - a form of workers’ comp.

Walking home I hear the clicking of a ten-speed bike,
it’s like a rattlesnake.

Returning to my situation room, it is a
Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

I mention something to my wife
about the empty bags and litter she accumulates
and she compares it to my writing.

I cultivate a state of being unraveled,
it allows a poem to occur.

The consequences of decisions made
when I was younger give me whiplash.

I caress a woman
into moments of relief, it is a way of
smoothing out my life.

I dream that I am with a prostitute
in enigmatic circumstances. It is in
a foreign country, no one says a word.

In the morning there are some delinquents
on the waterfront. Their lives
are at low tide,

and there is someone passed out at the bus stop,
lying in a shadow. 


Video: Steven Gray at the San Francisco Public Library


by Jenny Qi


Everywhere somewhere is burning
and it’s too late to look back.

I wake up in the dark smell smoke
so familiar I don’t think twice.

Some nights I wake with a start—here, look
at all these photos I haven’t scanned.

What happens when we die,
our memories tangled in the web.


Clear my throat of dust again
these days inescapable. I imagine

my lungs black like a chimney,
think of city haze so thick

it could not be measured, the scale
of these days beyond conceiving—

how the ancients imagined us,
what it means to be immeasurable.


I want to move to the mountains and breathe,
which is to say I want to be anywhere but here.

I would build myself a nest atop the tallest tree,
say hello to the grizzlies and lost small birds.

I would trace the stars’ slow fire path
into my palm like a poem, let this be enough.

I would be the mountain and the stars—
I would be that immovable and that transient.


by Sharon Coleman


Streetcar ceiling cracks, rain free
falls, taps vacant seats, spots a white
polyester robe, trickles silver
go-go boots. A Saturday morning
angel leaves downtown early.  
Nothing perturbs the angel’s
spiraling along a row of safety
pins piercing the top curl
of the angel’s right ear down to the lobe
where a chain loops a graceful
bulk of shoulders and ascends
to the other glittered lobe.  With Buddha’s
carved composure, the angel grips
a boombox between knees—
its silence, a reverence
for the clear new hour.  

Rumble and swerve of the N-Judah
through Duboce tunnel joggles
loose bones of sparse passengers
old folks with newspapers
or dark bags, me young enough
to slip a nickel into the metal slot
to get across town where I’d shed
jeans, pull on dance tights.

1980, in red spray paint “Eat a cop
Kill a Twinkie” re-christened
a Civic Center statue of a heroic man
from someone’s past. Those words loomed
over me as I waited in drizzle
for the hulking streetcar.    
I practiced travesty for years.  
Army surplus over swan tutu
pronounced myself
Sharonova Kolmanova
tossed off skirts to polka in Façade,
galloped the headless horseman
hurled pumpkins at besotted
crane-heads.  Or answered random
payphones: “Hello, White House . . .”

I believed every city in America
had a thoroughfare with faded movie
houses, donut stores, rifle shops,
maternity wear, dentists, florists
or a Sears whose basements dug
through native remains, a highway
flattened by missionaries
and snared believers—where angels
shouldn’t be caught in drag.

EST followers choreographed
deep eye contact as they served drinks
to the opera ballet, disciples kept
from pissing for hours to absorb
Zen for success. At least they
had a chance, not Jim Jones’s nine
hundred and eighteen. I turned over
a piece of scratch paper, and Leo Ryan’s
blue felt tip signature stared back.
One morning, reports of a sniper at 7th
and Mission kept me home from dance.
Nobody shot out of history that day
except for his gun.

To believe anything but not
for very long seemed one
strategy; to mime angelic
parodies another. each contre-
temps led into another.
How was I to know, peering in
at the threshold wasn’t safe, that I
couldn’t just kick one leg forward
or back and turn around
without being spun
into the spiral whole.


Over Pahoehoe
by Karla Brundage


Our girl’s back! Trees whisper
as they watch her toting suitcase
over Pahoehoe Lava driveway

Father—once a pillar
now faces ashes of former life—
a daughter returning

She stormy as Hi’iaka
He fiery like Pele
They fire and water don’t mix

But this time, he is weak
simmering—she raging
hurricane of healing

She bangs the cabinets clean
With bleach, brushes out roaches
rodents cane spiders. Sweeps the

Soot from the chimney
she brings her woman’s touch
to vast fields of nowhere

Where he lives.
Our daughter is back
now a woman

Her touch is rough, not gentle
her voice commanding respect
she towers over him

Threatening him into submission
Father, she says,
You are the child now

Take your medication-- like I said
Stop living like this
Take care of yourself—I love you.

**pahoehoe—smooth lava
Hi’iaka—rain goddess and sister to Pele
Pele—Hawaiian volcano goddess known for hot temper


View Karla Brundage's work in the Library catalog


Stand UP and Tell Your Story: Ignite the Fire Within
by Aqueila M. Lewis-Ross


Have you ever thought about a fire's birth?
See how it grows.
Sometimes fast.
Sometimes slow.
How long will it last?

As the flower grows
From our tears
We’ve been here before
We are Legions
Silent Survivors waiting for the chance to be heard.

When the wind blows, be the anchor
Take Your Pauses
Begin again
Stand UP!
Your stories were meant to be told!

Copyright, August 12, 2020


Video: Aqueila M. Lewis-Ross at the San Francisco Public Library


birth day
by Sarah Menefee


born old and black of hair with a cry
as soon as my head was out
when the yellow rust crept into the leaves of the city sycamores
fat and full of life was I
born into the waning days I came
onto this earth


View Sarah Menefee's work in the Library catalog

Video: Sarah Menefee at the San Francisco Public Library


Morning Silence
by Flavia Elisa Mora


Oh, how you can sit and fester in White sickness


Feels nice doesn’t it?
To wrap the pains of others around your hands
Like finery

You hold on to that feeling that feeds your ego
Like cocaine

So that when you wake up to the silence
Of the morning
The coffee won’t reflect at you
As a pool of blood

You latch on to that feeling
Like a gasp for breath

So that the water droplets
Don’t inundate you with tears
And the shrieking cries for help
As you shower

Among the murk 
Of your actions
And the ones
Of your ancestors

Feels better to burn the toast
As time sinks in your head
When the gutural conscience whispers
“You’ve been wrong”
And echoes
Till the alarming burnt air

But how pleasant,
To dig your harm after breakfast
Along the afternoon gardening
As you bury the feathers
You must like
To feel the afternoon sun
As you fester.



by sylvia l blalock


the world spins around me
With a gangster lean
Freminies both felt and seen
Familiar faces, rep unacknowledged sets
No respect sets that
bring no rest for the
already restless
reckless regrets begin to set
and no one is left unscathed
as the blood bath gets bathed
but then that is obvious
to those who  
with their pens
follow this
 bouncing reality
of what can and should be.
Things go dark in the family.
Whether judge or cosmic compass
Whether you read em or confessed
they worry how your scars will manifest.
Process more and speak less?
bruised into silence
in the face of ruling chaos?
Is this what truth costs?
Opinions spewing storied stew
Mixing poetry into a strange brew
Once distilled, what comes through is true
Consumed by many Ingested by few
Griot tincture: CAUTION
contents highly volatile
close examination could be
down to the follicle
every pore of you reviewed
for view
Do be you and be you cool with it
Even if you’re a fool with it
Entangled pen,
mic cords interwoven
tell me while you show it
light the way, poet.
Tongues once silenced
Spring to life,
Quicksilvered yet aflame.
Both spitting truth
 and shaming shame
for some
just for the Facebook fame
shooting their best
just the same
solutions and actions
adjectives and verb spins
the job of the griot never ends
as with all proper gumbo
many different things
used to make it just so
many argue contents
like rice,
adding it to be nice
It’s a tough thing to hear
But that’s EXACTLY why we are here…
If the truth is going to hurt
And we know it
Then isn’t it our job to bring it,