This was unexpectedly tough to watch.
Perhaps because it’s such a contrast to the times I asked police to help me.
When it’s hard to talk, it’s up to us to listen.
This was unexpectedly tough to watch.
Perhaps because it’s such a contrast to the times I asked police to help me.
that iron down your throat. As if you were my
own child. Nameless I will name you. Rearrange
each tooth into small porcelain vaticans. Pray out
the racist from voice box. Holy your pallet with
words like human. Iron’s good for the heart, you know?
My voice travels like a fog
Full of tongues & village spears
It does not seek to destroy
The children & their sticky
Caramelized fingers or their
Mothers who wear too much
Gucci & cellphone
It simply desires to exist with
The bluebirds & their song
Flying, flying away
About Karla Cordero
Born in the hot little border town of Calexico, California, I started my new life in San Diego where the weather spoils the living. I’m currently an MFA candidate at San Diego State University, studying creative writing under Sandra Alcosser and Illya Kaminsky. Aside from the graduate life, I’m an associate editor for Poetry International and my work has appeared in the California Journal of Women Writers.
In 2013, I helped the San Diego poetry slam team place fourth in the country at the National Poetry Slam in Boston. I believe that activism exists in the ability to pick up a pen and paper, transforming one’s thoughts into a tangible action for change.
Presented in the Janice Griffiths Gallery and Cafe de Artistes
By Fallbrook Arts Center
$15 Admission (Tickets limited and to be purchased in advance.)
New York Times bestselling author T. Jefferson Parker will be presenting his new novel Full Measure. A young Marine returns from the war in Afghanistan to his home in Fallbrook, recently devastated by wild fire. He is confronted by his ranching family and his community in crisis.
Full Measure will be available for sale.
For more information, call Fallbrook Art Center at 760-728-1414.
Proceeds will benefit the Fallbrook Art Center, which is located at 103 S. Main Street.
By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
January 22 is a significant date for me. I make note of it every year. There are two reasons.
One, January 22 is the day my mother, now dear and departed, birthed me. This year, I will acknowledge the anniversary in the warm embrace of family, Sicilian cuisine and possibly enough Chianti to disqualify my normal role as designated driver. I will laugh among loved ones, expound on various profundities and polemics, blow out the candles, and wish for a future in which women continue to make progress toward equality in the United States, while I sag imperceptibly toward my oldth.
Two, January 22 is the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Today’s newly Republican-dominated Congress will acknowledge the anniversary in the warm embrace of anti-abortion activists and enough religiosity to qualify many of its members as anthropomorphic examples of a failed separation of church and state. They will envision a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks, vote on the misnomered H.R. 36, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” and wish for a future female population that acquiesces to white, heterosexual, Christian male dominance.
Please note, however, that science is not a requisite basis for U.S. legislation; nor is the embrace of science a requisite for being elected to the U.S. Congress.
Please note also that some of those who support the unscientific bill are not necessarily idiots, but some clearly are, for example, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who introduced it. He’s one of those nutty elected guys who’ve said nutty things about “women parts” they can’t bring themselves to name in public. Franks’ contribution to the nuttiness is, “The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” a statement contradicted by medical science and the rules of grammar.
This sort of thing puts a bit of a damper on my celebratory mood. I’m always grateful to share a day of such importance to the advancement of women’s rights, but I’m always annoyed that some men and women remain adamantly dedicated to rescinding this particular advancement, and preventing others when the opportunity arises. And now, I’m sad that I can no longer call Mother on the 22nd to thank her for birthing me—and for teaching me grammar.
My mother was a great fan of grammar, unlike Rep. Franks and so many of his peers. She liked syntax, too, big fan of that. And punctuation. Also semantics. We could play with the meaning of words well into the wee hours. And, ho boy, Mother would have had some fun with H.R. 36’s title, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” It’s quite a little piece of propaganda: Who wouldn’t want to vote to protect children, right? I imagine, though, she’d have found that hyphenated compound modifier troubling, and the missing comma. She would surely never have referred to Rep. Franks and his nutty peers as “idiocy-capable, unrealized adults.” But she surely would have wondered why anything yet to be born would rely on anyone but its mother for protection.
Mother did a great job of protecting me, in the womb and out, without any interference from Congress. She was especially protective when I had an abortion. And you know what? When she died, she left me some money, so I honored her departure by giving some of it to abortion funds in states already burdened with abortion bans, along with other regressive restrictions that make abortions pretty darn hard for low-income women to access.
This also makes me sad. And mad.
So here’s a thought. On the 22nd, when I blow out the candles, I’m wishing for this: that you make a contribution to an abortion fund. Yeah, that would be great! You can visit the National Network of Abortion Funds to find the fund nearest you.
For information about Roe v. Wade and reproductive justice:
Read Pro-Choice America’s “Abortion Bans at 20 Weeks: A Dangerous Restriction for Women.”
1992 Rehnquist posters by Robbie Conal.
On November 11, 2005, former high school English teacher Patricia Bracewell wrote the following words in her journal: “I have decided to write the Emma novel. I want to try it. If I fail, I fail—but if I don’t try, I can never succeed.”
Bracewell’s debut novel Shadow on the Crown, is the first of a trilogy based on The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.* Shadow on the Crown introduced readers to the story of Emma of Normandy, “living in a time when daughters were traded like pawns and fear of the supernatural governed the actions of men.” The Price of Blood, to be released February 9, continues Emma’s story. Booklist praised the second book of the trilogy, calling it a richly textured, intriguing and historically authentic saga.
To celebrate the launch of The Price of Blood, Bracewell’s publisher, Viking, is offering two free books: the new hardcover The Price of Blood and the paperback edition of Shadow on the Crown.
If you’re a fan of Patricia Bracewell, of historical fiction, or simply a fan of free books, email your entry by January 31. Two winners will be announced at our February 10th Writers Read at Fallbrook Library.
Email your submission to email@example.com. Include:
1. Your name, email and phone number
2. Your first two or three original sentences of an imagined historical novel about a character from history you love—or love to hate. Any genre is acceptable.
The two most entertaining submissions will win first and second place, the first place winner having first choice of the two books.
You may submit a maximum of three beginnings.
Viking is able to mail books only to winners with U.S. mailing addresses.
We will consider your act of submitting your confirmation that the writing is your original work.
Any questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
* From Project Gutenberg: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was originally compiled on the orders of King Alfred the Great, approximately A.D. 890, and subsequently maintained and added to by generations of anonymous scribes until the middle of the 12th Century. The original language is Anglo-Saxon (Old English), but later entries are essentially Middle English in tone.
From The Guardian
they are more infallible
than the Pope
in whom they pray to
and for absolution
these young voyeurs
monastic in their ritual
look at themselves
like last year’s Prada
or the latest smartphone
they can’t afford
they parade like peacocks
and high tempo clubs
pulsate a temperature
they are old at 30
and there is little regular
or respectable work
who smell like baby powder
scant hope for women
who share a sleeping area
with their 2-3 children
“I’m no Puta”
is what they want to believe
when they dress themselves
for their most recent
who might have packed
a U.S. visa or residency
along with condoms
for this visit
what’s the difference
if you ask for pesos
before taking off your clothes
or while retrieving them from the floor
whether you call for the taxi
or the motoconcho
isn’t there dignity in both
one having chosen
to no longer hide behind
as though a woman
has no real needs
except to please those
of men who have no real intention
and smell like the lust
of her country’s conquerors
transient beauty steals her days
like a wretched thief in daylight
what was once their future
then reminds them
that this was their only value
legs agape, an
entry port for every Columbus
the humid and hard poverty
of her country hid slothfully
behind the brown of her eyes
and she is sixteen
still comfortable inside
the white and blue
of her Catholic uniform
sunburned high school eyes
laying between a stranger’s
sheet comforter and lust
that have known more lovers
than math exams
her mother and father
were named Iceberg and Slim
the family needs to eat
and they know best
how to exploit tenderness
and those chocolate eyes
and her female
are California 1849
they hold barter within them
these parochial brown eyes
like those Columbus
saw and raped in 1492
or was it some other discoverer
of nations and people
who already knew who they were
but were waiting waiting
patiently to be colonized
and she is laying between
the sheet and comforter
ready for her body
to be filled with the flags
of all those countries
she has never visited
all those countries
whose only concern
planting inside fertile ground
however she is ready
not to matriculate
she is ready to peel away skin
ready to disrobe virginity
so that when she goes to school
walks through the neighborhood
or is seen on her
favorite social media
she looks more than poor
more than the reflection
from those brown eyes
that lie to her about who she is
she is almost seventeen
and wants a Samsung Galaxy 3
not a Samsung Galaxy 4 or 5
because it’s more valuable
than who she is now
or can ever see herself to be
it is worth more than
whom her parents
can ever convince she is
About Conney D. Williams
Conney D. Williams is a Los Angeles based poet, actor and performance artist, originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he worked as a radio personality.
Conney’s first collection of poetry, Leaves of Spilled Spirit from an Untamed Poet, was published in 2002. His poetry has also been published in various journals and anthologies including Voices from Leimert Park; America: At the End of the Day; and The Drumming Between Us. His newest collection, Blues Red Soul Falsetto, was published in December 2012.
Conney has performed his poetry on television, radio, galleries, universities, grade schools, coffeehouses, and stages around Southern California and across the country, including the Black Arts Festival. He is a talented public speaker with more than thirty years of experience.
Read more about Conney at conneywilliams.com.
By Scott Gressitt
She was a tough old dame. She rolled into my driveway one afternoon in a ratty F-150 pickup, a Queensland Heeler riding shotgun, an oxygen bottle wedged between her and Fido.
“I’ve got a couple of old chairs that need attention,” she hollered through her open window, apparently lured in by the furniture repair sign at the edge of my yard. She pointed over her shoulder into the rusty bed of her pick up.
“Welcome,” I said. She had pretty blue eyes and long grey hair, pulled back loosely in a braid. I looked over the chairs. “I can make them right for a hundred bucks.”
“A hundred bucks! I’m an old lady. My kids have taken all my money. Can you do better?”
“Sure,” I said. “I can do one of them for fifty bucks. My kids have taken all my money, too. Four sons. The little bastards demand three meals a day—and snacks. And they won’t wear Goodwill anymore.” I looked her in the eye and smiled.
She winked at me and swung open her door. “Hi, I’m Susan, and you must be Wiseass?”
“Smartass, thank you. My father was Wiseass.”
She giggled, hocked up a wad of phlegm, pulled her nasal cannula out of the way, and, turning thirty degrees away from me, spat a big green lunger onto my clean gray driveway.
“Splat,” it sounded across the concrete.
“Nice to meet you, Smartass,” she said. “And there’s another reason not to smoke.” She coughed and extended her hand.
“Well, your O2 bottle matches your socks. It’s a good fashion statement,” I offered cheerily, shaking her calloused hand. Her handshake was firm and she spoke with the authority of someone used to managing people.
“So really, can you do better than a hundred?” she asked, squaring off and setting her jaw.
“Sure I could. Which part do you want me to not fix?” I answered, serious as cancer.
“OK, Smartass. You sure are grumpy for such a young man.”
She was tough, and I liked her.
“Flattery won’t help, Susan. I set the price when I saw you pull in, gave you the old-gals-driving-pickups rate. If you’d pulled in here in a Volvo, you’d be paying about two and a quarter.”
“You do good work, kid?”
“Of course. Would you like references? I got a ton of them.”
“May I see your shop?”
“Come on in.” I gestured in my best game-show-host style to the front door.
“Are you dog friendly?” she asked, climbing out of the truck.
“I haven’t bitten one in years. And I have a sweet spot for Queensland Heelers—only dog that ever bit me.”
“Come on, Zeke.” Her dog bounded off the seat, landed at her feet, and looked at Susan with the intensity of a mohel at a circumcision.
“Yeah, he’s a good dog,” she said, heading in my front door.
She beat me to the back door, opened it herself, took a few steps into my shop and stopped, taking it all in.
“Yeah, it’s a good shop.”
She started around the perimeter, inspecting each tool and workstation, wiped sawdust off the band saw, and picked up a pencil off the floor, turned and handed it back to me.
“I’ve never seen a shop like this.”
“Neither have I.”
“There’re no walls.”
“And no doors.”
“It’s so bright and well lit, but there’s no lights.”
“Nope, and no shadows either. The whole roof is a light.”
“God, I love it!
She agreed to the hundred dollars and spent the next ten minutes trying to find Zeke who’d gone exploring the property.
* * *
Susan called me two days later. “Are my chairs done?”
“I told you a week. It’s been thirty-nine hours.”
“I know. I’m just eager.”
“I’ll call you the minute they’re finished.”
Three days later, she came to the door with a Trader Joe’s bag.
“Susan, I told you I’d call you when they’re ready.”
“Invite me in, sir.”
“Won’t you come in, my dear?”
I gestured toward the kitchen. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Little old ladies drink tea. I’ll have coffee. Black. Did you miss me?”
“This reminds me of an old Dan Hicks tune.” I sang her a few lines of “How can I miss you when you won’t go away?”
She laughed and pulled two Bell jars from the bag. She reached in again and pulled out a mesh sack full of kumquats straining its integrity.
“You like kumquats, right? My tree’s fruiting out of control.”
“I love them.” I said, pulling two spoons from the drawer, and screwing off the lid from one of the jars.
I set the jar between us, handed her a spoon, and stuck mine in the jar scooping out the meatiest kumquat marmalade I’d ever seen, the only kumquat marmalade I’d ever seen.
I liked her more than my girlfriend.
I have walked in places most of the population avoids.
Besides scars and bruises, I’ve collected experiences that frighten, delight and entertain.
I write with the intent to take you on a wild ride where all your senses are fully engaged.
Scott can be reached at 760-591-9000 or scottgressitt
By Penny Perry
One you’ve dipped your hand in the pond,
slid your finger under
you must sit
in the autumn morning,
the moth resting on your finger.
Your dog, head bent,
collar jiggling, may tug
at his leash
to urge you home.
You may think of your coffee
on the counter.
Sun in your eyes
you may wish for a hat.
It is your task to sit still
and let the moth
shake its wet wings,
its tiny dark head.
You must invite the moth
on petite toothpick legs
to the nub of your bathrobe.
Your own breath quiet,
you must watch the moth
taxi up your belly,
across your chest.
Your heart may beat
a little faster,
the moth’s earth’s colored wings
About Penny Perry
A five time Pushcart nominee, four times for poetry and once for fiction, my stories and poems have been widely published in literary magazines. Fiction Daily tagged my short story “Haunting the Alley,” published online in Literary Mama in August 2011.
My first collection of poetry, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage, was published in 2012 by Garden Oak Press. The collection earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski, and Maria Gillan.
I am the fiction editor for Knot Literary Magazine, and I was a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute, and my movie A Berkeley Christmas aired on PBS.
I write under two names, Penny Perry and Kate Harding.
Photo credit: Graham Dixon via a Creative Commons license.
A Short Story by
Clete Johnson put in a winter garden this year: broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, red leaf lettuce. But the pests were eating his crop alive, setting him to ruminate on a solution. After forty-five minutes of deep and careful thought, and a trip to the refrigerator for a synapse-enhancing pale ale, he spotted the abandoned Dollar Store toy, a Bug Kit, that his wife Juanita had bought one of their grandsons, Samuel. Little Sam had left it behind after the opening of the presents and didn’t miss it, and there it lay on the end table the day after Christmas.
The Bug Kit, made in Cambodia, consisted of a face mask not unlike something a snorkeler would wear, only flimsier, fixed with a special magnifying plastic to aid in the search for bugs. And there were a pair of tweezers and a little round net, a bug scooper that looked as if it were designed to skim loose tea leaves out of a hot brew, and a small clear plastic bucket with a perforated lid, a holding cell of sorts.
Clete, brandishing Samuel’s Bug Kit, said to Juanita, “I’m gonna fill this little bucket here with salt water and wait ’til sundown, and I’m goin’ out there and scoopin’ and pluckin’ me up some of those God damned slugs that have been eatin’ my garden.” He pantomimed scooping and plucking actions with Samuel’s bug net and tweezers.
Juanita looked up from her knitting and said, “That’s for bugs, not slugs. And it’s not yours. It’s Samuel’s.”
Clete put the magnifying face mask on, snugged it down good and directed his gaze toward Juanita, who now looked as if she were wielding knitting needles the size of harpoons. “It’ll work for slugs,” he assured her. “And I’ll give it back when I’m done.”
That night after supper, Clete lit the Tiki torches out on the lawn and stepped into his garden with his face mask, his scooper, his tweezers and his bucket of salt water. Slugs oozed up from the ground and out from beneath the broccoli blossoms, and he netted them and tweezed them up and dropped them into the bucket where they sizzled and disintegrated into a slimy, obscene solution.
Meanwhile, the true culprit in the garden depredations—a ten pound alpha bunny who lived in the ravine behind their property—hopped into the wavering light of Clete’s torches. He rolled his eyes at the human in the mask, the little net and tweezers, and then he grabbed a cabbage, tore it free, and took a huge bite.
The sound of the beheading and the subsequent chewing drew Clete’s attention. Forgetting the magnifying effect of his mask, he turned to see what appeared to be a rabbit the size of a bear. The bunny looked at him and took another bite with its enormous teeth, then it rolled away the cabbage and advanced in Clete’s direction, not out of aggression or ill-will, but to get at the red leaf lettuce that was certainly a more tender and tasty treat than his first course.
Clete dropped his bucket and screamed. The bunny went wide-eyed, and from the top of the fence that separated the Johnson’s yard from the Leahy’s, Ellis Leahy, wielding a small camera, recorded Clete tearing of his face mask and breaking into a terror dance, knees pumping high as he spun in a circle three times, bellowing, before he broke into a mad dash for his house, knocking Juanita—who had come to see what all the noise was about—ass over tea kettle in the sliding glass doorway as he sought refuge inside.
The bunny continued to chew.
Ellis collapsed to the ground, leaned against his weathered redwood planks and guffawed, until Juanita stalked through the side gate, snatched the camera out of his hand and threw it over the back fence, deep into the ravine.
About Dan McClenaghan
I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.
I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.
Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and five beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!
Photo credit: Bark via a Creative Commons license.