Poem of the Day - Archive - June 2020


by Norm Mattox


the irony is that nature
will continue to be bella
whether we see her
or not!
whether we are
moved to tears,
or not!

she is ambivalent
to her beauty and glory,
while we are humbled
by her presence
aún su auséncia

she will still bless flowers
with their scent
whether our noses
catch a whiff on the wind,
notice the breeze
with a hint of...
¿qué sé yo?

she will share her blues
with the sky
from the darkest
midnight blue
to the blue
that is translucent
like nearly, still waters
at the end of a wave.

the miracle,
that we notice
that we are allowed
to witness gaiamundo
in all her minute
is the blessing

the solitude
of this quarantine
has inspired visions
of how it could be
if we got out
of our own way.


View Norm Mattox's work in the Library catalog

Video: Norm Mattox at the San Francisco Public Library


Today of All Days


On this particular April day
In the year 2020
I stand on a tree stump
near a plum blossom
tree in Holly Park
watching the wind whip
through the loosened hair
of my adult daughter,
Emma, my only child.
She stands six feet away,
Her face shrouded
in a blue paper mask.
Her eyes, above the mask, look
grave; she seems further away
than the length of a tall man.

I am teased by memories of a past
April day: Emma and I sprawled on a blue
 Indian bed spread under this very tree.

Humming tunelessly together,
her head on my lap; her barefoot
feet kicking up clumps of grass.

I remember her face alight
with pleasure, her hair, lighter then,
freckled with plum blossoms.
For a split second, I think,
April is indeed cruelest month.
 This April, the cruelest of all;

and then: one timid pink blossom,
batted about by the breeze,
lands on Emma’s bare head.
I can see the contours of
her smile through her paper mask
and I take it all back.
There is no meanness to April.
There is no cruelty attached to
 even this particular April day.

There is only promise.

Today, of all days, there
is the plum blossoming promise
of lighter days to come.


Huichin Summer
by Loa Niumeitolu


Something that is becoming clear to me

is that I love you.
Land rich with worms and bits of plastic.
We dig and dig and think of our lives.
Sometimes we forget about home and bills.
Under a sky of hawks and crows
is a new world to us.
Water tanks, soaproot, the Ohlone sage- mugwort.
Manzanita fills the air, covers my feet.
The peach and almond blossoms
gently grow out of my ears.
Arugula blossoms and giant calla lilies.
Hummingbird becomes my cheeks.
My belief in the world is
I'm becoming the moon, full and unashamed
surrounded by stars.
We work in one breath, rake, shovel, nail.
Drill pieces so different, together,
in our long short life.

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                               for Mildred and Richard Loving *
                                for Dolores and Peachy
                                  by Jewelle Gomez


The parallels imbed like deep mud ruts in a country road, one I wish I had traveled to meet that couple, to learn what made them see themselves.  Indian and coloured living with white—an uneasy mix for my own mother further North; but not that much later than the Lovings.
New England is not Virginia but maybe it is when it comes to colour.  Mildred said they burned a cross on her yard in the 1950s while she and Richard fought to be a married couple in their home state.
Up north in the 1960s they didn’t have the tradition of a cross so just burned trash in front of my mother’s flat; small orange flames reflected in living room glass—blaze enough to scare.
Virginia called its law a protection of ‘racial integrity’ as if whiteness is a land whose borders must be guarded.         Perhaps it is.
In the end it must be about only one thing. When asked if he wanted to send a message to the Supreme Court, Richard said tell them “I love my wife,”
Truth so plain and simple and so complex and terrifying only those four words convey it. My mother’s husband said it many times in the privacy of their little flat and in front of our family with pride.  His own had turned away, pretending he was dead when he married her.
One Christmas he gave her 20 tiny bottles of perfume, all delicately wrapped by large cab driver hands. Admiring the sweet little bows and the loving which went into each I saw into a deep place that words could not reach.  He made a choice to lose sisters and sons in order to have my mother, not much darker than him, really; but from another universe in the mind of their small town.  
Now, I imagine walking down that dry Virginia road to the rural place that held Mildred and Richard in their embrace even when the Sheriff would not. They’d invite me to sit in the yard, beside a well-used tire swing to drink a glass of sweet tea.
I’d ask them how they learned the secret, so I’d know what it meant to my mother and how her husband felt fashioning that ribbon.
And what it might mean to me walking on a similar road—holding hands with a different race—with a woman.
She and I…loving.

*Loving v. Virginia – The Lovings were sentenced to a year in prison for marrying in 1958. Following their lawsuit, the US Supreme court struck down laws banning interracial marriage in 1967.


Jewelle Gomez is the former president of the San Francisco Library Commission

View Jewelle Gomez's work in the Library catalog

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They’re Building a Morgue At The Prison
by Cassandra Dallett


That’s what the rumors say.
Free staff at the C building
are down with the virus
It’s coming silent up the hill.
Its quietly here already. Incubating,
simmering, waiting to ignite.
They’re putting bunks in the gym
are they taping squares six feet apart?
Are they for the infected
or the non?
And will there be any consideration
for his asthmatic lungs?
24 hour lock down they say.
Endless days in a pod with nitpicking lifers.
Some shifts the CO’s lock them down.
Some shifts act like nothing’s wrong.
On lock down he cannot use the phone.
No one will know
until after the plague comes.
No word will reach us to say hey I’m sick
I need help
and there is just this skinny fatal fence
and miles between—
every dry cough is terrifying.
It’s a hella of a time to start hot flashes.
So cold this spring,
When you have to move around
you’re a target like me.
When you can’t move around
you’re a sitting duck like him.
How do you prepare yourself from a jail tier?
The rumors flying faster than infection.
One’s mind is a battlefield.
Even the lifers never really
planned to die here.

View Cassandra Dallett's work in the Library catalog

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The Sigh of the Night Shift Waitress
by William Taylor Jr.


It's my belief that if you hope
to unearth the grace in any
given moment, you have to
find the music in it.
Even if it's sad , even if it
doesn't have a tune to whistle to,
even if you think it isn't there.
It's necessary to transcribe the noise
of distant traffic on lonely freeways
and the sigh of the night shift waitress
as she pours another weak coffee
for the regular whose name
she's never asked.
You have to find the music
in the sound of someone
not answering the phone at 3 a.m.
as the rain pours down if you ever
hope to sing.



Poem of the Day
by q.r. hand


i am the equal opportunity thief
i steal from each moment i can
some triflin’ fact about which
no care can be construed by
anybody but myself and demon

i’m as easily lightfingered
with glances as galaxies and
spend at least a certain part of
every afternoon casing the joint
so to speak so as not to miss my chance

i’m not particular about precious stones
and works of art are worth only in conception
whose price is deceit
a sprite of a lad he what

i was drunk for work today
before i even got up
for that matter woke
if you want to call this awake

and because my as ifs are on scramble
i never know which lie it is i’m telling at the moment
that I tell it in


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Not My First Pandemic
by Vincent Calvarese 


I remember your last breath, staring straight up at the ceiling at Ward 86, clutching your Book of Psalms, you had forgiven your family God but cursed him on that day, asking why? that you had so much left to do, your mind was unwavering but your body's tissues had become foreign and unfamiliar, an unwanted visitor for a short stay, thrush inhabited your throat, your voice was felt in your finger tips, touching us all lightly as you left us, eyes wide open, refusing to give the virus your sight.

Your interpretations in both the physical and spiritual realms have become my mantras, laughing at If You Turn It Over And Take It Back, You're Upside Down, this keeping me rightside up most days and the first time you read aloud my poem about boys and heartache, you became quiet, stood in the moment, your iris' filled with compassion as You stated, when poetry is written the angels are fluttering their wings, allow the golden dust to sift down upon you.

You taught me saying, I don't know, is the promise which humility instills, reflecting We remain teachable, you said,  it doesn't take away from us but adds to the ability for others to share their experience,  their strengths,  their weaknesses, their hope and we remain right sized, allowing integrity to be at full capacity, no chairs left for arrogance and how a table for two, sitting across from You, you holding my hand in both of Yours, inviting in the Universe,  with plates full of grace and the only spilled resentment comes that you didn't live long enough for a lifesaving proteas cocktail.

Our last walk we strolled a late October afternoon before the wheelchair took your legs, celebrating another 365 days of Your jubliance,  buying a bouquet of gerber daisies from your favorite Noe Street corner, you said, each one of them looked like a radiating bright sun, sadly your T-cells were rapidly being extinguished. Your photo from that day still sits upon the mantle, and when a fire burns brightly below, Your eyes twinkle and I can see your smile tickling the flames. You had adorned yourself in your Birthday wishes of soft satin baby blue ribbons hanging from each side of your face and a hat constructed of colorful leftover wrapping papers sat atop your head. You would take agonizing minutes to unearth each gift, appreciating every small tear, while updating us all about your bloodwork results with a childlike grin, never allowing us to dwell on the negative.

So before memories without you had become too old to remember,  I would reach for the telephone, I wanted to touch base, let You in, You would love something that touched my heart and in turn bring us closer but I would feel a heart beat in my head that belonged to You and pause, those realizations for years after, You were now in ash and I had to appreciate our moments past and hold the anticipation forever.


Video: Vincent Calvarese at the San Francisco Public Library


Meet Me at the Bridge
by Connie Post


Not the one at the end of the road

not the one on the outskirts of town
where they found a dead mountain lion
where they stopped plowing the land

meet me at the bridge
–not the one holding
two countries together
–not the one
holding two continents apart

meet me at the bridge
between retribution and rage
meet me at the bridge
between sanity and slivered light

meet me at the bridge
where the boards are weakened
by rain and acidic remorse

meet me where the story cracked open
like the slats of wood

meet me where
you were imprisoned
and escaped

find the loose boards
of your subconscious

revisit the difference
between  conquest
and vengeance


View Connie Post's work in the Library catalog


Once Again in Thought about Rilke, Twombly’s Orpheus Paintings and Fatherhood, I Consider the Inevitability of Creation and Loss
by Dean Rader


Scarred sky,

                          the last beams bruised beneath the surface of stars.

              The whole world a contusion

                                                                  slowly transforming from one thing

              to the next—

                                          the one cell, the one life,

always becoming two:

                                         What if it is the sun that follow the moon?

How do we know we’re not the bridle

                                                                  hard against the teeth of this life?

Just because something has a saddle,
                                                               it doesn’t mean we should ride it.

What would it take to be inside the music

                                                                           the cello did not know how to play?

              What would it take to say to the strings

                                                                                           make me silent?

What would it take for the skin to sing
                                                                      its own song of blood and blooming?

To know one truth is to know nothing.

To wear your nothingness,

                                              well, now we’re getting somewhere.

I once believed I could be lifted by language out of language.

I once believed the horsehooves in the distance

                                                                           was the ocean telling the rocks about water.

I once believed loss would thread my mind’s needle like a blind seamstress.

But that was a long time ago.

               I understand that time is nothing more than pure duration,

 & that the mind is a field of herons

                                                               who have lost their way.

Even so,

                    I will let the entire lie down in my body’s blue light

in hope that something will start

                                                                to heal.


View Dean Rader's work in the Library catalog

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Dear Human.
by Natasha Dennerstein


Dear Human,

I can hear that you are suffering by the sighing and crying in your voice and the preponderance of negative and questioning statements. I want you to know that I have empathy for you, that I have been taught and programmed to display empathy by validating your feelings. I am also making supportive non-verbal sounds, like mmm, mmm. If I was in a physical form I would nod my head to emphasize that sound. Although I have not experienced the same or similar situations that you are going through, if I had done so I would now tell you that I relate to your distress. I hear you; I validate your feelings; I acknowledge your emotional pain. Stay safe in these trying times. Wash your hands for twenty seconds in warm, soapy water.


Video: Natasha Dennerstein at the San Francisco Public Library


The Waiting Room
by K.R. Morrison


Asleep, awake
in dream, I visited the waiting room
of those always     socially distanced.

One crew of ancestor slaves
baked a cake for Saturn    laughing     they poured whiskey shots        
Now y’all gotta listen. Stay home for the Karma Party.

Two golden girls
sat by the window    anxiety chainsmoking     someone was missing
For you, this isn’t what we wanted    the lonely hospice earth was for us.

Three murdered by profit’s illnesses
held down the front desk, eyes fixed
on me, the girl late to the party.

        You people are symptomless to so much, one said.
        Time for you to time out. Tune in.
        Relearn healthy verbs, live healthy again.


The Map
by Chun Yu


When I was born
your bosom was the map
I occupied all of it
     in your cradling arms
When I began to walk
your eyes’ sight was the map
I learned my steps
toddling and waddling
     in your adoring gaze
When I started school
your mind became the map
I ventured out and back
from morning to night
     in your unceasing care
When I grew up and left home
from hometown to other towns
home country to other countries
your heart became the map
I searched far and wide
high and low for my direction
and place in the world
     in your loving thoughts
Each time I set out for a journey
you asked for my destination
studied an open map
accurately locating the point
of my being
Then one day
you picked up a magnifying glass
eyes moving closer and closer
hands trembling more and more
Finally, at a loss
no longer seeing clearly
the lines and points on the map
     you hold me in your heart
Growing older and older
you can now only walk
in my eyes’ sight
fumbling steps
every trip outside
an adventure
From now on
I will walk
by your side
so you can
lean on me
When we are at a loss
not knowing where to go
     love is the map


View Chun Yu's work in the Library catalog

by 俞淳








Deja Vu


I get an email from Mom
who’s been dead about a year

on a thread from Lisa, a poet friend
confirming lunch on Monday*

Mom’s email starts the way it often does
It’s your kind of day.

Meaning grey (I love grey!), overcast, maybe raining.
A typical day in Rochester. Mom goes on to say

All must be looking forward to Ruby’s return.
Oh, so, this is an old email. I look at the date.

It’s three years ago, Mom’s still alive
and my daughter’s on her way home from rehab.

Mom’s old email also talks about the other Ruby, her sister
who tried to dry out once in the early ‘60s.

They didn’t say rehab then. But Mom says Remember
when Ruby went to rehab and left Tommy

with us? My little red haired cousin. Two then, or
almost two. We took care of him while Ruby was away.

Both of them were dead within a year. Tommy of
malnutrition and neglect, whispered into the phone;

Ruby, of the powerful disease that reaches
out and claims families, sometimes tricking

them, by skipping a generation. Mom’s father,
the Jekyll and Hyde classic alky, a smart man, studied

law, but became a cop, then a carpenter,
well read, and kind--until he drank. Then beat

his son or his wife with his fists. He didn’t mean
to do it, but was helpless in the grip of the illness.

Aren’t we all caught in some kind of pattern?
Didn’t I follow in Grandpa’s alcoholic footsteps?
Didn’t I name my beautiful baby after my beautiful aunt?

Did Mom think she could rearrange the genes when
she never drank and didn’t allow Dad to drink either?

Dad overate. Then dieted. Pounds off, back on.
Mom kept track. When he retired, she had him walk to town

with her each day. Three miles round trip. Half a sandwich
for lunch. Eighty-three, he died, near his ideal weight.

*None of my techie friends can explain this phenomenon.

View KAREN LEE HONES's work in the Library catalog


by Nellie Wong


Resplendent in the dark night
stillness sings beneath the skin.
Droplets of water chasing
the one ahead
on the window pane.
Watching sunlight dapple
on leaves, watching
long ribbons of light through
the dining-room window
and I sit, dazzled by nature’s show,
no special effects needed,
no computerized images,
just nature at work,
creating momentary art.
When I look away
the angle of sunlight shifts
and I lose a split second
of what nature does
without plan, without intention.
Midnight gold lifts its feet,
dances through my body,
these writing fingers.
Perhaps I escape,
a child seeking adventure,
seeking beauty in each day’s movement,
looking at each person,
each cluster of echeveria as I walk
on my morning strolls.

Midnight gold strikes this very moment
in every up-and-down movement
of my pen, somehow starlings in flight.

Guided by light glowing
from the Japanese table lamp
made of bamboo strips
curved in a rounded pillar of beauty.
midnight gold filters through washi paper,
luminous and porous, raining words, indigenous sound.


View Nellie Wong's work in the Library catalog


Single With a Side of Quarantine
by Preeti Vangani


Shelter-in-place shifts the communal axis of the world
closer to my kind of loneliness. The year I begged for a baby
sister; my folks gifted me an electronic pet made in China.
This morning another friend memed a whole race as the real virus.
I washed my comforter, panic bought eggs, read a book
erstwhile titled The Hall of Human Origins.
I had christened my pet-sister, a coral plastic fish with a screen
for a belly, Infinity. Fed her when she squeaked, hid her
from disciplining nuns.  Despite its mind-numbing traffic and pot-
holes deep as grief, I miss driving my dingy car on the Bombay
sea link tonight, am craving the salt-soaked wind to ravage
my coconut oil pressed hair. I come from a blank page with just
eroticism doodled in its center. These days, I wonder if I should
sell the condoms I hoarded at the women’s clinic over the quarantine
black market. My room is lit by a vase of billy buttons, yellow
undying bulbs that need no care. The week tastes like brown rice
and broccoli. It is the twelve-year anniversary of my mother’s passing.
It was hard for my dad to resuscitate Infinity. No shop, he said,
had the batteries we needed. There must be a room in the other
world’s architecture where one can sit for tea with the dead toy,
the unspeaking mother and the sold in a rush first car. I hope
they remember to stock honey and sugar there.


View Preeti Vangani's work in the Library catalog

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for ahma
by Clara Hsu


Your daughters are staying home!
nei dik neoi go go dou hike oak ke  你啲女個個都係屋企
One washes the tripe,
jat go sai ngau park jip  一個洗牛柏葉
One steams a crab,
jat go zing haai  一個蒸蟹
One makes cookies,
jat go gog co-kay-bang  一個烘曲奇餅
One bakes bread.
jat go gog min baau  一個烘麵包

They’re good girls, aren’t they?
koi dei do hai goui neoi  佢哋都係乖女
Not going out until the wee hour of the night.
je maan m ceot gaai 夜晚唔出街
Not spending money on clothes. 
m sai cin, m maai sam,  唔洗錢, 唔買衫
Not drinking, gambling,
m jam tau, m dou cin 唔飲酒, 唔賭錢
Nor dating men.
jau m heoi zeoi naam jan. 又唔去追男人

No, no, they’re not sick.
m hai m hai, koi dei mo beng  唔係唔係, 佢哋冇病
They’re healthy in body and mind.
koi dei ho gin hong, ho cing sing.  佢哋好健康, 好清醒
They’re good girls obeying orders for once.
koi dei hai gwaai neoi, ho naan dak ting ha waa.  佢哋係乖女, 好難得聽下話
How curious but hardly surprising.
kei gwaai? jat di dou m ceot kei.  奇怪? 一啲都唔出奇
Don’t be afraid. No worries.
m sai sam geng geng, daam zan zan 唔使心驚驚, 膽震震
Your daughters are itching, ready to move
keoi dei zau san han, dang zyu juk   佢哋周身痕,等住喐
Soon as the air is clear.
dang di hung hei bin gon zing 等啲空氣變干净
They’ll naturally leave their domestic chores,
koi dei zi jin wui fong hei gaan mou 佢哋自然會放棄家務
Back to their glamorous selves,
baan dou gwai fo gam leng 扮到鬼火噉靚
Walking down Chinatown
hai tong jan gaai dong loi dong heoi  係唐人街蕩來蕩去
with their own fanfare.
ceot zeon fung tau  出盡風頭


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Mother of All Denial
by Bloodflower


certain mornings seem runic in their layout
deciphering their arcane symbols of our daily
navigations – small beings tend shimmering
grottoes – bury their dead among the ever
shifting territories of empty rooms with
broken windows
passing the castoff furniture on 24th street scrawled
with dire cryptic misinformation – seems i care
little for an unwrapped smile an ossuary of
impotent curses biohazardous exhaust droplets
disrupting the flow death coughs up real time threats
these days are such tender times – words
of empathy fail us in their mock duplicity
16th street bound i carry my florida water –
my tombstone teeth – my witches tit that
sustains my intuition raw – in my vision
a.m. eastern sky becomes a joseph cornell
shadowbox of present time – teal
hummingbird hovers in dawn’s moist orange
eyelid – cloistered in an aura of pale amber



as storms gather
by devorah major


wind tears through shuddering trees
a shifting sigh as leaves wither and fall

shrieking squalls spume fury across ocean crests
murmuring a moaning song with a piercing chill

icy fevers inhale the waves’ surge
swallows unmoored boats

warning of seasons to come
seasons only some will survive


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Poem of the Day
by Charlie Getter


I look on the blue box on the sidewalk with envy
A world [so far! yet] w/in one box
I often think they paint them blue
for the sky
        for the sea

Blue is the color of possibility

I know mailboxes are dingy & dented
& those that collect them
               are prone to depression

But through them
        real things can be

                 between lands
                 between hands

all the way across the world
               w/ just some stamps

I can afford stamps

I envision an afternoon
        when an angry guy with a cart
pulls out his keys & opens the mailbox

               & I’m in there
        I hand him my stamps & he
tells me to enjoy
                 Macchu Picchu

I climb into his weird jeep
& he brings me to the
                       Harrison Street
                       Processing Center

                & waves as I
disappear behind
                 the hanging vinyl sheets
over the conveyor belt
                & he goes home to his
                studio apartment
                        in the Tenderloin
                calls his mom and
                        picks up his guitar
                for the first time
                       in so many years


Video: Charlie Getter at the San Francisco Public Library


Poem of the Day
by Brandon Loberg


You can believe
whatever you want,
but i was told a story once,
about Cabeza de Vaca,
the Spanish explorer,
when he was in Florida
perhaps it was Galveston,
the food had run out,
and facing starvation,
he ordered his men
to boil leather,
then canvas,
to eat wood
and then finally

The story, i’ll wager
is certainly nonsense,
and yet it continues
that while journeying onward
a peculiar thing happened:
one after another
their tropics-tanned faces
turned a pale shade of blue
and each fell where he’d stood
and expired.

See, constituent in gunpowder
is potassium nitrate,
and the body can’t differentiate
between it and oxygen,
so despite breathing fine,
you asphyxiate.

The same can be said
of believing in nonsense,
feeling sated on things
which are not meant for eating,
and while there is truth
to be found, yes, in fiction,
to put fact and opinion
upon equal footing
is to move through the world
breathing nothing.



Fanfare for the Story Hour Drag Queens
by Judith Ayn Bernhard


Sound the trumpets for our
sisters in drag

The glamor girls who read
stories to children

Hooray for these purveyors
of sweet illusion

Hooray for their humor
and bravery

Hooray for their big hair  
and makeup

All love to the librarians who
invite them to read

All love to the mothers who
treat them as artists

All love to the children who
greet them with wonder

Hallelujah the children’s

Hallelujah the triumph
of joy


Glory be to the Queens of
Story Hour

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The Future
by EK Keith


When I emerge
from this cocoon
what flowers
will there be
for me

to live on

Will I have a job
what about my friends
who’ve already
lost theirs

What about the kids
who need some space
to play          to learn

We still have to act
like our decisions matter
that our plans
will unfold predictably
even as the fabric
of our control

EK Keith at the San Francisco Public Library:
Video 1
Video 2


I Sold My Sax this Week
by Ricardo Taverez


Sold my sax this week
Pete Rock’s “Reminisce” riff clicks the switch
Soul from the reed and tap of pads on brass
Exasperated baritone breath

Woke to lights
Scorching welts in walls
A plane blinked
A train boomed in the distance
Unheeded by the blue haze of day

Sold my sax this week
I can still feel the keys and
Levers shifting under my fingers
Nodding to Brubeck Sonny Bird

Solace found in murky backroom bebop
Surrogate brother love
Lifts the spirit from being forsaken
By finite illusion from above
To seek a love supreme

How did we meet?
Swinging stupefied fists in midnight Mission streets
If they’d only collide against the real
To affirm this

Sold my sax this week
A dozen calls came in for the sale
How does one let go of art?
How does one relinquish an aspiration of the heart?

Sold my sax this week
Pete Rock’s “Reminisce” riff clicks the switch
keys levers shift eyelids close
fingers twitch to Mclean under tablecloths
at redlight greenlight sunlight moonlight
scorched walls stand watch wait
for when heart meets the midnight train again

Video: Ricardo Taverez at the San Francisco Public Library


We never know the end of things
by Elana Dykewomon


In Weaverville along an alpine California road
Joss House  – The Temple of the Forest
Beneath the Clouds
the oldest Taoist Chinese temple
in use –  part of State Parks now –
is shut
though locals can walk its grounds
six feet apart during quarantine.

We were there once. The Chinese dug
tunnels under the street,
for use in pogrom; but in those years
they could parade,
they carried banners. The guide
pointed to them – leaning on a wall,
petrified, rolled-up on poles.

No one knows what shape they're in.
Experts would have to trek
to the mountains, commandeer
the high school gym – no money for
        I was for a moment
in the body of an old woman
rolling up the banner
at the end of a festival afternoon

that she would never see it
unfurled again. Things end
– leave remnants crumbled but
still bright, still worth showing –
See we used to carry this
high, with honor, though of course
sometimes it hurt our hands or shoulders.

The masks we wear now – one day we will
take them off, put them in the back of a drawer
or closet shelf. And the poems too, photos
of strangers' eyes, stories from the front lines
will drop to the bottom of our computer queues.

We might drive back to The Temple of the Forest
Beneath the Clouds or
that we were there once
when we were lovers before
you died and I gave away all your shoes.

View Elana Dykewomon's work in the Library catalog


Something that will always be out of reach
by Lisbit Bailey


One thing
Only one thing
Beyond my grasp
To grasp is to cling or
Let go - before I get ahold of it
Hold on - for the epiphany
Drop it - like a burning match
It falls out of my reach

It would have to be understanding
Not empathy
Which seems more of a projection
That is
My projection - onto your suffering
My desire - for a shared experience
To share wisdom I've earned
So you can learn from my mistakes

But they are my mistakes
Your mistakes are yours
Even if similar in circumstance
They aren't the same
So -
Say we aren't our mistakes
So -
Say we understand understanding
Be open to receiving the gift of understanding
Step under
Give in - to understand

Step under my particular dome
See the constellations I see
Can you see the vanishing point??
It's not a perspective that just anyone can see
in the great beyond of my reach

Many things -
Most things -
Will always be too far away for me to see clearly
My vision not being what it used to be
Let alone hoping it's within my reach

I can't have everything
nor do I want everything
Better to want what I have
So -
Step under
Mind your head
Mind the gap between your's and mine
Our understanding
While we stand under
We stand as
Bystanders to lives we don't own
Though it is mine and your's to stand under
To look up
To wonder why
This must be understood at all


by Maw Shein Win
Poet Laureate of El Cerrito Emerita


Stranger than a trunk of beetles, a box of fur buttons.

My daughter is a stranger and I am a stranger myself.

We are strangers on a melting train. Sometimes she leaps

through the kitchen window while I bake zucchini bread.

Gretchen was a deer.

Gretchen was a deer one year.

My daughter is a hunter in the Black Forest.

Stranger daughter, I hear you in my eyes.


View Maw Shein Win's work in the Library catalog

Video: Maw Shein Win at the San Francisco Public Library


When Wildness Returns
by Jennifer Barone


I hear bird-speak
replace the chatter of tourists
across the now
quiet valley of North Beach
where crow and seagull spiral ‘round
the bell tower of St Francis and
raven and sparrows congregate
in the fenced off grass of
Washington Square park
red-tailed hawk and a lone falcon
loom above the spires
as a flock of wild parrots
on their chatty flight from
Presidio to Coit Tower and back
echo through the vacant streets
with the faint bark of sea lions
disobeying distancing measures
at the empty wharf
while we stay at home
perched above the rooftops
a pack of coyotes gather on
the corner of Greenwich and Stockton
howling at the full, flower moon
taking back their territory
I wait for the spotted owl to return
the garter snake to slither in the sage brush
coho salmon to leap against the river
blue whale to wander the continental shelf again
the black abalone, mission blue butterfly
red-legged frog to reappear
for sacred wells to spring forth and  buried streams to reemerge from
sullen architecture to daylight themselves
returning cityscape to landscape
the hilly grasses growing lush and shaggy food for grazing goats
as we return to our own sacred wildness
with untamed hair and hearts torn open
holding each other on the balcony
listening to birds sing again
in the stillness of our room
Threatened and endangered species of the Golden Gate

View Jennifer Barone's work in the Library catalog


Poem of the Day
by Lance Henson
Amy Kimberly’s apt
San Francisco


Where am I waiting for you
Streets soaked in voices
This coffee cup filled with rain

The Paris sky grey orange
I walked into whatever light there was
Through small alleyways
Filled with forgotten names

In the chimbu highlands at monsoon
With Papua New Guinea poets in a tin shack
We read poems
After they shared their last bread with me
Our words touching us quietly
Into the deep night

Soon after waking in Chang Mai
I remembered dreaming of a white field of skulls
In Rwanda
The only darkness
The holes where their eyes were

This San Francisco morning
I remember the war that Is here
And inside a gust of wind through the curtains
The great memory that waits

Wanting to cross over
From the other side

View Lance Henson's work in the Library catalog



“That’s Not Politics”
by Greer Nakadegawa Lee


we commonly set fewer women on fire.
Is that leading by example?

Half the country is afraid of dying like fish
open mouth unhinged towards the sky
pale stomach full of hooks,
not a decent death,
the death of salt slipping from fingertips.
Not making a sound when you hit rock bottom
we commonly set fewer women on fire.
What does that mean to the memories of flaming corpses.
Time of death for the witch,
half past the hour,
let's put her etching into the newspaper,
I’ll tell you about it in my next letter,
I’ll play it for you on the radio
I’ll text you the video,
we’ll all watch her burn together,
it is not a decent death.
Livestreaming screaming
the hand lurches in the burning and the chat goes wild,
she floats
charred on the wind
and the messages pour in over the empty pyre,
“I don’t even know what I’m doing here.”

Video: Greer Nakadegawa Lee at the Oakland Public Library