Poem of the Day - Archive - December 2020


Camissonia Rising
by Maya Khosla


For the Bay Area Poets Laureate
To take you all along a path
to the hairy suncup, the pink clarkia
the sweet-seeking,
underground dwelling, solitary bee,
to the youngest, most independent bear
of spring, who surprises a Sierra fox
into a canter. To take you all
where the undersides of stones
are still wet from last year’s rains,
where subterranean tunnels,
full of glow-in-the-dark fungus,
are where the rootwads burned
all the way down, down,
and the oak tissue underneath
lies asleep, lies awake, half-dreaming
sending messages to the beginnings
of leaves in their nodes, sending
chemical announcements
to their neighbors, the buckeyes,
and the manzanita, who are also rising
from the ashes, unfurling like fists
all their facets admitting light
into microscopic corridors
of water running new leaves.
To take you all into the quiet,
into the small hours of regeneration.


by Luisa A. Igloria


Once I read a poem in which
everyone living is allotted only
a little over a hundred words every day;
and a man saves most of his words so he
can whisper I love you over and over
to his lover, quiet on the phone each night.
He never asks (how could he) what she spent
all her precious language on: he never
upbraids her for using the last dozen or so
on an order for food or coffee, or to answer
the doctor’s query on where it hurts
and how. It sounds incredulous until I
consider how many times I’ve been given
the last serving of fruit or slice of cheese,
the only seat in a waiting room; how
he’ll drive the miles and miles that still
need to be covered, through which I’m never
chided when sometimes I fall asleep.



fired from a Support Group
by Mirm Hurula


What does support look like?
What could support look like?
I received an email
And my whole plan and life were shattered
What the hell was I supposed to do?
A child crying on one side
And another
Asking me a question about going outside.
“can we go outside, miss mirm?”
My first response is
“what do you have to say when you ask for something?”
They blankly stared at me,
like the face that I had
when I received that email.
You wanna know how to support us
How to support those you want to show off
to other universities
because of all the different events and meetings we put on
while you take the credits from our
black and brown hands
while we shed our blood, sweat, and tears
for this.
To have our own recognition for
what we do,
what we put together
by the skin of our teeth,
the death of our brothers,
and siblings.
for what you have put me through
and for all of the things you have put through
all who came before me
and for all those who WILL come after.
We come around
and we come with a vengeance.
We have figured out how to
and break our bodies
to create platforms
and steps to make our siblings
walk across with ease
with support
with healing
from our mistakes,
our accusations
our livelihood
our very existence.
because you still have to work with me
you still have to see this face at events
you still have to see me in your meetings
you will still know my existence
you will be the ground I stomp on
you will be the Kool-aid I spit out.
I’m tired of being your sick joke,
your token
your bitch
your mule
the face of your organization
“but something they don’t know
is that as soon as they mess up once
they’re out of there
they’re out in the cold
she’s all by herself
we will not help her
she’s doesn’t need it
I honestly don’t think that she needed it
oop, I meant they’ll be fine.”
This is the only reason I’m getting an education
The only reason I’m going to college
The only reason why I’ve found people
People I’m okay around
The only reason why I’ve found support
but, you’ve just fired me from a support group.


the garden
by Emily Barrett


growing in the dark
moving without being seen
but moving

the darkest black green
and the bright baby green
wound together
straining along
using force — also unseen
and made of every color

So much reaching
longing to sing

but settling
for creeping.



by Peggy Morrison


A tiny thorn smoldering in my upper lip
left by the prickly pear fruit you prepared
my tongue sliding across slick skin
pets the constant thorn
for weeks part of me
with each touch I think of your eyes
the crease in your forehead

In your room the open door
rocked in the brine of our bodies
a prism of night thoughts
I swim towards sunlight
A demon crawls through your voice
You show me where near the base of your skull

You wonder we wonder if we are safe
on the undulating ground
I say you will keep me safe
the constant news repeated words
Trump's face and all the suits
staring out of the TV like automatons
yet you find it hard to turn it off

It's a way to keep processing
find out how to be
In the morning you nourish
sautee potatoes in the iron skillet
coffee with honey in big cups
and we sit in the sun
on the back porch



by Katie Aliféris


I see us now
sitting cross-legged
sand seat
water’s edge
forehead to forehead
listening to each breath
that passes between us
that flows from your lungs
into mine
from mine into yours
I see the dark sky
draping around us
the only light from sparkling stars
distant specs
incandescent flames
little luminosities
little ancestors
little lovers
watching us
I hear the ocean waves
pulsing to the pull
and push
of the moon
against rock and reef and driftwood
sweet song
salt song
serenading this sacred exchange
I smell the slight hint of ozone
the midnight jasmine
your sweat
salt tides
floral tides
earth tides
like burning sandalwood and cypress
swirling around us
and am awakened
I feel your dark curls
cranial currents
soft petals
between my fingers
as I bring our eyes
our crowns
back together
back into one
back into self
back into wholeness
back into paradise
back to that beach
of unearthing
and sharing
and knowing
and effervescent breaths
that leave us without
that leave us with
that leave us
that leave


No Toll Going Northbound
by Denise Sullivan


It was October
And finally
There was sun
On the way to the town
Where the ferry still goes

Somewhere between the first
and second tower
There were words
Not so much the what but how
They were said
Their volume, their pitch

That night I called-in my regret
For words spoken
On the bridge
You said never mind
And I said - I love you
And you said
I know


The Night Before the Night Before
by Jessica Loos


It's the night before the night before
& l take another sip before the last sip
before the SIP starts, & Alan Black takes an eerie spec at the end & l go home.

I sip some more last sips before the SIP starts for real, enact social distancing, & have half a chicken for three Washington & a wine at Bella Cora.

March 17 l go out. SIP day 1. Sip 3,000.
The North Beach streets are vacant & heavy, my body cuts thru the air, is there air?

A shrill voiced woman in a pink bandana runs up behind people walking, screams "boo" into their ears, sticks her tongue out, runs away.

An old man with a cane & a brown paper bag throws a can at her, spits on the sidewalk, asks me for a cigarette, screams at the sky.

A guy with a mouth of silver caps leans against the wall on Columbus, next to the taco place, blaring his radio & singing " We Are The Champions," by Queen.

I go to  my airless room & prepare for what? Sip 3,001.  If only l could see things outside instead of just into the fuckin' airwell. Just a tree, or a lunatic.

March 18. SIP day 2. On my way to Washington Square Park. People don't look as shell shocked. The sun's barely out. It's windy as fuck.
A young girl in all black, tattoos, a nose ring, boots & a dog strolls by, balancing a crate of eggs burning an incense, singing "Goodship Lollipop."

Next maybe I'll see the guy who walks his duck on a leash in a green jacket, or the woman who never has no pants at all. Tomorrow is just day 3.



Collection Day [Pandemic]
by Virginia Barrett


We are feeling the universe with giant
gloves which grow each night covering

the cosmos, as one covers their face
when caught by surprise or an overwhelming

grief. Cloud-shadows move and don’t
move; walking trees make their way

closer to stars while we sleep, draped
on limbs. From the window I watch

a woman wheel a dog in a carriage on
the sidewalk as a man pushes a shopping

cart down the middle of the dead end
street. She’s shouting at him across the space

between them, over the rattle of the metal
cart piled with plastic garbage bags full

of empties. They vanish from view, become
barely audible: gone. I put on my mask

and go outside. After collection, blue
recycling bins stand like bodies gathered

for an action yet to begin. I breathe through
the tight weave, watch light salvage

wreckage from the sun; I am too seldom
at the ocean to hear the murmuring of shells.


Midnite Mercy
by Antoinette Vella-Payne


Two dollar bag of marshmallows
Given to dreadlock man
Took fluffy white sweet blobs
Down wind lashed tent row to friends

I drive away looking back
Ashamed its not more
Louis Longfellow lifts
Comfort’s camouflage half mast pants

Up across highway One
Eyes on Ocean
Beach access fosters
Impossible catalysts to survival

Sugar restarts motor like crankshaft
Smell of diesel
Soot spots lungs
One hundred Dalmatians under fire

In my chest where breath
Held on reserve strengthens
Resolve that any small kindness can
Reverse large mistakes

After years of  living  behind bars
With murderers and thrives
To know in the heart of man
Love forgotten is just a spell



The Promise
by Skooter Fein


The promise
of forgotten
the color
the forgotten
of her
listen to
the promise
of her
allow her
consider the
of her
the promise
the color

is the
the forgotten
of silence
of her
listen to
the color
of silence
the forgotten
of her
the promise
of forgotten


Deconstructing the
Coup d’etat
by David Kubrin


a stable GENIUS surely he
is not, yet a calculating and deranged MIND is clearly at WORK
in his brilliant re-conceptualizing
of coup d’etat, now not a single instant
blow but a slow yet relentless
pounding away at the body politic
until it is everywhere bruised,
from head to toe, the rain of fuck yous
to the Constitution, a whole series
of them making PERFECTLY CLEAR
this LEADER transcends the Rules,
made his OWN, clearly chosen
BY DESTINY-- & so the subpoenas
Ignored, egregious confliscts of interest,
end runs around Congress & ESTABLISHED laws
& ethical no-nos, up the YOU KNOW WHATS
in an ongoing spectacle
carefullly scripted, the continual blows
against the black &the blue spooled out
for our astounded outrage,
was PURPOSELY laid down , precedent
upon  president ino a reckless display,
a          fabric of implausible undeniability,
OUR WORLD historic GRIFTER making a DEAL
To star the US empire in his very OWN Reality TV
(all-channels) & a SMASH HIT!!!

Everyone agog
too good to end this
& if thugs mobbing
PULLING places
Is what it TAKES
Hell what an amazing

We’ll just SEE WHAT

But it’ll be


by Elise Kazanjian 12/2020


            breaks through crusty brain cells       takes up

permanent residence           a zealous homesteader    

             baying wolves echo                   hallways of your mind.

Chevron signs talk to you        Draconian orders      the latest command:
                                      C       O     N     D     U     C     T
                                      S       E     X      U     A     L
                                           E     X     P    E     R      I      M     E      N     T     S
                                                                                O     N
                                                                   W     O     M     E     N

The Chevron instructions                      never clear                            unrelenting.

Your body                       trembling                             Your achy                         head.    

Not sure what to ask.                         You try.

               Women slink away                                    slitted crocodile eyes       

                            You seek refuge.
                            You point your mirror-sheen polished shoes
                             impeccable ironed frayed khakis
                             clean white pressed shirt
                             polka dot-striped bow tie
                             English Harris tweed jacket
                             leather elbow patches
                             perfectly trimmed boot-camp crewcut
                             toward 6th Street pawnshop friends.             

                             Voices can’t find you there.

Your eyes lift         stare at the chandelier         above the pawnshop counter.  

                             No answers there.

          Pawnbroker Harry asks you, “Franklin,
                       you repawning your Olympus camera
                       or your stamp collection today?”

                       “No.                                                       They’re talking to me again.     

I can’t work                                                                               I  can’t go anywhere

                                               Silence is only here.”

Pawnbroker Harry stares                                                         sighs,

                “OK, you can stay for awhile, Franklin.   

I know it’s hard                    try not to listen               Please take   your     pills”.

You know you are safe here                 voices don’t come to the pawnshop            tears gush out.

        “The signs pull me                           angry voices                         I have to listen.

                          What shall I do?                          Can I stay here tonight?”

Pawnbroker Harry turns away               you hear him              

                          “No”.                                             then                 

“you can come back tomorrow.”

You walk out                                                     You smile.


Video: Elise Kazanjian at the San Francisco Public Library


by Abby Caplin


Hallway turnpike, table to fridge
promenade, bed’s shuttle stop—

the ghostly outside pause, a body
can get used to it. Your hair

graying protests
of follicles counted like casualties.

No more visits to Victor’s salon,
your scalp turning cold

as he talks and coughs.
You laid out your kids’ teddy bears

brought up from storage,
angled them in the front window, a way

to say hello, I am inside this house
stacked along the street.

Coyotes run through the backyard,
fleas and moths throw themselves

at the front door; I open to the scent
of lavender, lemon, rose.


Video: Abby Caplin at the San Francisco Public Library


by Julie Bruck


They are made for this moment,
never looked so well-nourished,  
luxuriant in their blue-black feathers.

Of course, they are intelligent,
these speculators who crowd
out the smaller species, dine

on their eggs,  then fill every
vacancy with themselves.  Even
the mourning dove, fat as a pigeon,

no longer babbles from the windowsill.
And what do you hear when your eyes
first open—not at night, when only sideshow

cars scare the city silence—but at dawn?
Ravens!  Crows!  Big as houses, wide
as streets, and always screaming.

It is plain. That r’s a red herring.
Look outside: only landed emissaries of the air.
There’s no-one else, is there?


View Julie Bruck's work in the Library catalog


The Ferlinghetti School of Poetics
by Joan Gelfand


“All that we see, or seem, is but a dream within a dream.” Edgar Allen Poe

I: The dream within the dream within the dream
What is it, Ferlinghetti,
Taking star turns in my dreams?
Strolling in front of cars
Haunting alleyways, stairways,
Bars? Beating moth like flitting through
San Francisco’s sex fraught avenues? In North Beach
Where XXX marks art and
Nasty commerce collide, intersect Columbus,
Telegraph Hill, Jack Kerouac Way.
You are fog whispering in from the sea
On another sunny day.

“There’s a breathless hush on the freeway tonight,
Beyond the ledges of concrete/Restaurants fall into dreams
With candlelight couples/Lost Alexandria still burns.” *

Ferlinghetti’s words sink, weighted
On the business end of an invisible fishing line,
Dredging last nights’ dream to surface, gasping for air
Shivering like some catfish
Eyes bulging, wet lake water dripping off its scales.
The knife of memory slices open
That dream, finds me on haunted streets,
Instructing small boy:
“You gotta go to the Ferlinghetti school. It’s totally rad
and completely cool.”


II:  Ferlinghetti Makes an Appearance
Phantom audience shouts:  “Higher! Higher!”
Egg the poets on – after all, they’re not on the wire.
Higher? We spin the memory wheel until there’s my father
Strolling through his own Coney Island
And there he is again winning a goldfish
The clerk hands it over fish circling in plastic bag
Big Daddy pretends
It’s all for the kids.
He needed to win like that fish needed water.

III: The Poet Reconsiders
Is the skill of life just keeping on
All the gears oiled, the doors open?
Even if the past keeps drowning and the knifed open
Dream fish still swims around?

In dream theater Ferlinghetti arrives. Was it the Regal, the Royal or the Metreon?
I rise to make room for he who started everything
Got the wheel of poetry turning, broke
Open language, letters. Vaporized
While he drifts
Haunting my dreams.

*From “Wild Dreams of A New Beginning” by L. Ferlinghetti


View Joan Gelfand's work in the Library catalog


East, On 24th
by Jeff Kaliss


prompted by Prof. John Isles at City College of San Francisco: stroll a street

homes here politely paint over their age,
           and turn it into money.

a new crop of children regenerates the greened-in playground.

the afternoon flowers and the leftover pumpkins,
            frowned down on by gray skies.

gravity pulls me down into the Valley,
            and draws raindrops from the overseeing clouds.

now, in the neighborhood plexus,
            my memories begin to shine
            through the autumnal present.
hollandaise glistens
            on the face of some lovely old young flame,
            loveliness abides, the waitress at the wine bar,
            the bank officer, chumming with her tellers.
here were coffeehouses
            where we scribbled in our journals towards girls with theirs,
            aad here were bars
            where we put shots into our courage
            and coins into our anthems.

after detoured years,
            I got married again,
            at the church up there,
            catered by neighbors.

in a short block,
            brouguey Irish publicans on one side,
            goading Greek greengrocer on the other.
one sweet daughter,
            carried as a babe to the bar & grill there,
            toddling later to the cleaners here.  
going on,
            quotidian gravity
            grabs hold again,
            towards lower anonymous
            crisscross traffic.
I think I’ll have to catch a bus.



Video: Jeff Kaliss at the San Francisco Public Library


Poem of the Day
by Buford Buntin


The way things are set up, or perhaps fouled up
over the past four years, some failed businessman
pr'd into the White House, developmentally disabled
high school students figuring out how much it bugged
me that Trump might get into the White House, and then
he did!

now we get another chance--
a sort of old school democrat who
has been in politics for 48 years
has taken his place among president-elects--
let's see what he can do to de-trump America.


Happy birthday Jack Hirschman, with a poem in your honor by Scott Bird.

by Scott Bird



When god blackened the mountain
With storms of fire
And two rocks split from the granite
Spire at the summit of his brow,
Moses labored and toiled to bring
Down the Word to the People.
The Decalog was wrapped in a blue sheath.
The people were sheep enough
Not to know or care to understand it.
But the musicians in the street sang with him
saxophone songs while the rest built a golden calf to
melt into the gutter at Grant and Post.
I gave Moses my hand and said,
“I’ll help you carry them”
Lean on me and I will be your staff for a time.
We did not tarry long for rare was
The time when the light atop
The Tower of the City flashed with Red
Celebrating the Red Poet’s birthday
The color that brings change
on the horizon line.
The color of a Tamalpais smile.


When Geronimo led the Apache
By the cover of night through
The Sonoran Desert,
Black shadows of saguaros
Gave them their only refuge.
By day, cholla cactus and
Sun-brandished rock,
Home of thirsty rattlesnakes
And scorpions, who shared their Sanctuary
while the U.S. Cavalry
Stomped all around them stumped
And and puzzled. Their eyes were
Muddled by destinations manifested.
As a scout, tasked by our
Fearless Reader, our leerless endearer,
Fearless Leader brought box after box
Of weaponry to fight by desert night.
Tomorrow, when the Red Sun rises,
We must be ready to draw and fight
With roses, stems and leaflets.
A book the size of a boulder
and three times longer than the Bible
will catapult the Rulers from their loftiness.


The orchestra tunes. The crowd hushes.
The lights in the concert hall dim.
Silence before the eruption
of applause as the Maestro takes the stand.
Baton in hand, he breaths onto the page
Beethoven Symphony 3 “Eroica” mvmt. I.
Two shots rang out.
Beethoven’s Eroica and the whole
crowd leapt with fear and elation
Two shots rang out, the first thought to be
The chandelier breaking free of the opera house
Ceiling trusses. But, by the second chord,
We knew it was a Symphony to unite
The “thems” and the “usses”
I stood in the heights of the balcony
Just to watch the music roll freely
From that glorious score published
Between his smiling ears.
To hear and be moved.
No time for tears in the
Tune of heroic symphonies.
That’s what these Arcanes are for me and for you.




Perception (it's not what you think)
by james ellis


Have you noticed -
We're forever looking at the content of ...

- what do you want to call it -


Note, these are just words ...
... and the word is not the thing it describes.

We're forever looking at the content: a bunch of thoughts, yes - ?

And we look not, at that which is present for the content.

Y'know, it's been said, in the absence of all that is not Love, Love IS.

Shall we look at what is?
What shall we call it?


Tasteless. Colorless. Silent.
So, it  is Subtle.

Presence: you can't cut it up; it cannot be fractured.
So, it has Integrity.
Presence: you can't buy five pounds of it; it has no market.
So, it cannot be bought.

What else?
Everyone has one - so, no one goes without.
Thus, it has Integrity.

Presence: it's all we know, as Knowing -
So, it's Omniscient.

It never go away -
So, it's Omnipresent.

Question: can something all-knowing,
and all-present,

also be
Omnipotent - ?

i'm Asking.


by Barbara Berman


Crows are good at eating junk food  I have  been told, and I have seen behavior supporting that,  so their health is connected to what we do with  refuse , which means it is of course a matter of what we consume,  and I  think of the junk food I have not eaten during the pandemic,  because  with my gym closed and a different exercise routine,    I am  sometimes paralyzed by fear  of becoming the fat girl I left behind more than forty years ago,  and I like the idea that my salmon scraps,  carrot peelings, apple cores, strawberry hulls and occasional cake and cookie crumbs  from home made treats are healthy gleanings for crows, making them stronger,  perhaps , or more benign when my  bits of compostables fall from bins made of petrochemicals, that by doing marginally less damage to my body I'm doing something kind to corvids.


Video: Barbara Berman at the San Francisco Public Library


by Lee Francis III


It said: “caution at the cross walk.”
I had never seen a cross walk
although I knew about
the right to bare arms
even though I wore
long-sleeved shirts
when it was cold.

There were other signs
urging caution
like border patrol and
no smoking men
and feeding birds.

The best sign of all was the
one with a large black P
enclosed in a red circle
with a diagonal red slash.
the sign was easily understood
No P.

I didn’t see the sign that said:
Diabetic Indians Excepted.



A Forest of Words
by Karen Melander Magoon


I am lost in a forest of words
Seeking essence
I am lost in a forest of dreams
As I walk
I am lost as I follow each stream
To the heart of a forest of words
Seeking something I misplaced long ago
In a different realm
I can see the words
Strung among my dreams
Yet decipher no semblance of thought
I can see all the alphabets
Ancient or new
Jumbling chaos of syntax
Of everything taught
Through each eon of mind
Through each age I can find
Just a semblance of meaning
An echo of dream
I am lost in a forest of words
Primal songs
Primal essence
Of something I lost long ago
Before time could remind me
To follow a stream
Of ideas that would lead
To my soul


Video: Karen Melander Magoon at the San Francisco Public Library


untitled #4 (on why the Black poet is never seen smiling)
by Mimi Tempestt


to those unborn who will dare to pick up the pen,

when you open your history books. look back on this year. and ask where all our teeth went
our answer is simple

it’s not because love wasn’t caressed into the seams in this current nightmare-life silhouette
it’s not because we failed to wake up every morning without you on our minds
it’s not because we lived hell in a year & a year exposed 244 years of a failed human experiment
it’s not because we didn’t stitch every word to fulfill your prophecy
it’s not because every word stitched prior didn’t help us walk in our own
it’s not because you weren’t envisioned to inherit the heaven that is already ordained within you

our answer is simple
it’s because our teeth were never here to begin with
every utterance of this poem is a prayer in your name 
every prayer in your name is a possibility to fulfill a future
that always existed through the alchemy of our designated tongues

our prayer is simple             may there be less dead leaves withering during your fall
                    may your mind and body know rest
                    may wisdom reverberate from your lungs like air
                    may the words sing in your ears like honey
                    may you create and fulfill your own glory
                    may the streets you walk be clear and fully paved
                    may you make love and know it as the world’s only gold
                    may each stanza bare themselves naked to you
                    may the chatter of their false ideations be heard as a lull
                    may you try and fail and try again to succeed
                    may you succeed only on your own terms
                    may your pen write in the same cadence of your heart
                    may your heart feel with no bounds
                    may the universe announce itself in your presence
                    may joy always whisper jewels from over your shoulder
                    may death be kinder to you than she was to us
                    may your life experience no limits or frames or cages
                    may your lessons be learned, hard and fast
                    may you forgive our mistakes and misunderstandings
                    may you pass your inheritance to the next generation
                    may time be your companion, not your cosmic overseer

                    and may every Black body
                                                       not be a dead man’s

                    and may every tear shed
                    on a Black mother’s cheek
                    not be understood only
`                    as a soliloquy

                    and may the laughter
                                                             of a Black child be heard
                                                             as grace in haiku

                    and when your words
                                                             find refuge on the blank page
                    write like the gods are
                                                             the only ones reading your soul

                    write as if you are revealing
                    yourself as a god too

our prayer is simple            and you, brilliant one, were always the answer   



V. Making It Last (A Mustard Seed Pantoum)
by Lee Francis IV


There are gardens everywhere we look and they are green and they are golden.
We must be careful to let them tangle and twist in the sunshine
unafraid to step into the unknown stories that wrap around each leaf and stem.
and unafraid of hard times, always unfinished, always reaching to the sky.

We must be careful to let them tangle and twist in the sunshine
these mustard seeds. They will grow tall and joyous from strong soil
and unafraid of hard times.  Always unfinished and always reaching to the sky,
they will blossom and grow in ways we are not even able to imagine.

These mustard seeds.  They will grow tall and joyous.  From strong soil,
they emerge with prayers on their leaves which we will eat and form stories;
they will blossom and grow in ways we are not even able to imagine
from months ago when we first pressed our hands into the earth.

They emerge.  With prayers on their leaves (which we will eat and form stories)
these ancient plant dreams remind us that we are also mustard seeds
from months ago when we first pressed our hands into the earth
and began a journey of growing. And now we understand:

these ancient plant dreams remind us that we are also mustard seeds
unafraid to step into the unknown stories, that wrap around each leaf and stem,
and begin a journey of growing.  And now we understand
there are gardens everywhere we look and they are green. And they are golden.


View Lee Francis IV's work in the Library catalog


Viral Float
by L. Steere


I am drifting
down this formless river
of unknowing:
Bends and curves
and currents
carry me this way
and that.
It will take me where it goes.
I am aware of fellow travelers
wanting answers
or thinking they might have them,
splashing toward shore,
snagged on sticks and branches,
falling back.
I am aware of swimmers bumping gently
against protruding rocks,
rubbing against them,
twirling slowly in an eddy,
moving on,
sometimes redirected by the flow.
I am aware of my own body,
floating in timelessness,
I am aware of hope
and no hope.
It is dark now,
but the night birds sing,
and frogs are courting
somewhere nearby—
cheering us on,
or maybe just happy to see us go.
The stars are sharp as daggers
stabbing this new sky;
no one speaks:
Our breath may be contagious
in this warm wet night—
our thoughts perhaps more so.

In this blackness,
I would take your hand
so we could float together,
buoy each other up.
But I must ask you please
to stay six feet away: no solace here.
Wrap yourself instead in this unknowingness.
It is the only comfort we may have.
It is the only thing I know.


Broken Pitcher
at San Francisco Legion of Honor
by Andrena Zawinski


At the Moscow Tbilisi Bakery, we eat
potato and cabbage piroshki, sip black tea,
save poppyseed and cherry rolls for a picnic
on the lawn outside the local art museum.

Inside, gallery walls house wedding violas,
half-naked nymphs, the elite trussed up
in lace cuffs and fur trimmed waistcoats.
Patrons don headsets, nod, take note.

We make our way to Bouguereau’s doe-eyed
peasant girl, broken green pitcher at her feet,
art of the virgin’s lost innocence, the art
of innocence torn from her. Vessel spilled,

she languishes barefoot at the well, fingers
laced in prayer to implore her Montparnasse
god of oil and wine and paint and canvas
for release, captive there with brooding heart.

Outside, we spread our picnic across scarves,
turn our backs to columns and walls, ghost
of a girl joining clouds a westerly wind
washes clear from the fractured sky.




"Poetry ..." first appeared in the Autumn issue of World Literature Today, and is used with permission of the translators. © 2020

Acknowledges poem image


I Used to Know This Welcoming World
by Susan Dambroff


I used to know piano keys and perfect loops of cursive, how to diagram sentences, so many phone
numbers, digit by digit remembering
Used to build houses out of popsicle sticks, used to believe in trapdoors beneath my bed,
used to dream houses with more and more rooms to spread into
Used to slide down my father’s shoulder into his lap, used to hear my mother say-- “warm as toast”,
used to know an unmasked safety
Used to know the certainty of cat’s cradle, double knots, knit pearl, knit pearl, used know that
that school would begin again, that I would get a new pair of shoes,
that we would line up in size order, real close-- and I would be always be first
Used to know how to catch hope’s spin
Used to play hopscotch on the sidewalk, that shape and joy
of knowing how-- to throw the stone, skip and turn, and toss again
Used to know seasons would come back with predictable weather and blooms
Used to teach children to count petals, make leaf prints, used to open the classroom door
to watch the rain
Used to know snow cold and green heat, used to shine the light of summer buttercups
under my chin
Used to know a braver body, more slide in the knees, more flop into sleep
Used to know aging would come with losing, but didn’t know how much
Used to be a child in a field running through the grass, boundless and limber,
galloping, prancing with a dog’s delight
I used to know this welcoming world


A poem, in order to remember and refocus
For Pablo Neruda

by Maketa Groves


This day
like no other
will soon pass.

But now
the glamorous sea
flaunts her diamond surfaced brilliance.

The sun traverses the sky awakening other
worlds of sleepers

The moon will climb
its silken laddered perch
and embrace us in its
milky attraction
and a little sadness.

Soon, this day
like no other
will be gone.


“Depths”   11/5/2020
by Brett Benson


Down in the Depths,
Fathoms upon fathoms,
Where the crushing weight of time may suffocate
Your physical structure;
So, I sit in the infinite,
And ask that which brought us here for wisdom;
By currents and the sounds of watery bottoms,
Or the dust of eternity overhead,
That forever cosmic show,
I hope,
Tied to something;
Perhaps the bones I owe to humanity’s mother,
Some 200,000 years ago,
In the heartland of Tanzania.

I sense, somewhere in the solitude of silence,
That every being came into form from One origin;
I ask, as a beaten and bruised mortal,
That the same energy which allows wildflowers bloom,
And the wind to calm nerves,
And nature to free the spirit,
To be my Guide.

Please, break my ego.
I hope to return home; to vibrate;
To reunite with calmness down in the depths.