Sunday, September 19, 2021

For Henry's Bar


By Joseph Rios

I’m on an errand to find my grandpa. I’m ten
and finding freedom in a sanctioned outing
on my bike through the streets of Clovis, CA.
I roll past Silver’s house and peek into the backyard
of broke drunks holding paper bags around
a barrel fire. One who just came back
from taking a leak is seasoning some carne
they bought with the tallboys across the street
at Numero Uno market. The door chimes when
I walk in and see Artemio’s white mane. His mustache
stretches from his nostrils to his sideburns
and up into his waxed pomp of hair.
My grandma says I’m not supposed to talk to him,
but he always asks how she’s doing.

I don’t see my grandpa anyplace. Art says
he’s around somewhere. I go to Ruby’s
next door. I’m not allowed, but I look in.
I’m hit with a gust of cigarettes and Bud Light.
Half a dozen heads turn my direction. No dice.
I ride down Pollasky with feet out each way.
I swerve left and right, free, for once. I am this
far from the shouting distance of my grandma.
I take to the alley just for kicks and pop a wheelie
behind the appliance shop. I pull up behind Henry’s,
knowing grandpa’s in there. A few other grandpas too.

I don’t knock. I stay on my bike. I realize
I’m not ready to go home and like most men
in this town, grandpa doesn’t want to be found.
I keep riding. I go North toward what’s left
of the railroad tracks. There’s a grey cloud
moving across the sky and I imagine I’m
chasing it, I’m right behind it. I keep riding
until it’s all oleanders and stacked railroad ties.
I never thought I could go this far. I get off
the seat and stand. I glide next to a forgotten
caboose. I imagine I’m the howling train now.
My tires kick dust as they crunch over the dry dry dirt.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Easter Sunday Poem


by Tammy Melody Gomez

According to my plan,
I did indeed bike to Mama’s home
on Easter Sunday / yesterday.

We chatted from a distance,
she at her front door,
me on St. Augustine lawn.
Our Easter Sunday family gathering
in the year of COVID,
without a table or a meal.

From my daypack, I brought out
an empty shell with cut paper filling:
a hand-painted cascarón—confetti egg—

and gently placed it
one lone one

on her porch and stepped away,
I won’t mind if you leave it there
or maybe just smash it with your shoe.

Our hearts have been broken before

when prison, money, or unsettled rifts
have kept us from our holiday home.

Today, by phone,
Mama tells me that she
forgot about it overnight
but now
the one lone cascarón
is inside her house.
“She’s cute,” Mama said.
“It’s a she to me.”

From the collection Together In A Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn
(Which just so happens to have a bicycle on the cover.)

Monday, January 25, 2021


 WHICH THE PHRASE red-handed, meaning caught in the act, meaning smeared with guilt, out out damned spot, is a bastardization of, given as purple-handed is the result, this time of year, of harvesting mulberries, which Aesop's ant might do with freezer bags or Tupperware, but, being sometimes a grasshopper, I do with my mouth, for that is one of the ways I adore the world, camped out like this beneath my favorite mulberry on cemetery road, aka Elm Street, aka, as of today, Mulberry Street, the wheel of my bike still spinning, as the pendulous black berries almost drop into my hands, smearing them purple and sweet, guilty as charged.

by Ross Gay

From The Book of Delights

This book of "essayettes" - sometimes prose-poems - was chosen as the 2021 Everybody Reads selection by the Multnomah County Library, and will be made available for free to all patrons beginning in early February, 2021.

Street Birds

 By Tyree Daye

We hunt here, I was shown death

at the age of seven, something dead

in my uncle’s hands.

I touched the belly of the black snake

felt its body a muscle tense.

I know nothing

of the baby birds cut

from the sour smell of its stomach,

just as I know nothing

of the sister and brother I watched cut

from the back seat of a flipped over car,

their own little cave.

My uncle tossed the thin-winged birds

into the air; lost

in the overgrown wood forever.

They never flew, never rode

their Huffy bikes from street end

      to street end.

Never raced each other,

never turned a bike into a motorcycle

with an empty orange soda can. The black snake tail

will swirl until the sun goes down,

until the devil comes to get it.

I began to pray

for a new skin for my mother.

Once I cold name 

all the new things.

Mutt puppies, new heads of lettuce,

my uncle’s new car, new red heart.

From River Hymns

Friday, May 15, 2020


by Laura Kasichke

The windshield’s dirty, the squirter stuff’s all gone, so
we drive on together into a sun-gray pane of grime
and dust. My son
puts the passenger seat back as far as it will go, closes
his eyes. I crack my window open for a bit
of fresher air. It’s so
incredibly fresh out there.
Rain, over.
Puddles left
in ditches. Black mirrors with our passing 
reflected in them, I suppose, but I’d
have to pull over and kneel down at the side
of the road to know.
The day ahead—
for this, the radio
doesn’t need to be played.
The house we used to live in
still exists
in a snapshot, in which
it yellows in another family’s scrapbook.
And a man on a bicycle
rides beside us
for a long time, very swiftly, until finally
he can’t keep up—
but before he slips
behind us, he salutes us
with his left hand—
a reminder:
that every single second—
that every prisoner on death row—
that every name on every tombstone—
that everywhere we go—
that every day, like this one, will
be like every other, having never been, never
ending. So
thank you. And, oh—
I almost forgot to say it: amen.

Again, a poem from the Poem-a-Day posts by the Academy of American Poets. The author says:
“This prayer of thanksgiving was inspired by exactly the things I put in the poem: the ordinary drive with my son beside me in the passenger seat; the man who rode his bike beside us and saluted us; the weather and the sense of stability and gratitude for stability I had at that moment; the sense that things were going to last and be preserved, if only in memories and snapshots, glimpses of recognition passed between strangers, or between human beings and what felt, at that moment to me, like a benevolent creator who deserved some acknowledgment, even if we are really, all of us, on death row, even if the immortality I felt I got a glimpse of might have been the kind of immortality one achieves having had her name chiseled onto a tombstone. But, I had a lovely glimpse of eternity there, for a minute.”

Thursday, May 7, 2020

You Rode a Loop

by Rosa Alcalá

You rode your bike from your house on the corner to the dead end of the street, and turned it around at the factory, back to the corner again. This was the loop your mother let you ride, not along the avenue with its cavalcade of trucks, or up the block where Drac the Dropout waited to plunge his pointy incisors into virginal necks. You can’t remember exactly your age, but you probably had a bike with a banana seat, and wore cutoff jeans and sweat socks to the knees. You are trying to be precise but everything is a carbon-like surface that scrolls by with pinpricks emitting memory’s wavy threads. One is blindingly bright and lasts only seconds: You are riding your bike and the shadowy blots behind the factory windows’ steel grates emit sounds that reach and wrap around you like a type of gravity that pulls down the face. You can’t see them but what they say is what men say all day long, to women who are trying to get somewhere. It’s not something you hadn’t heard before. But until then, you only had your ass grabbed by boys your own age—boys you knew, who you could name—in a daily playground game in which teachers looked away. In another pin prick, you loop back to your house, where your mother is standing on the corner talking to neighbors. You tell her what the men said, and ask, does this mean I’m beautiful? What did she say? Try remembering: You are standing on the corner with your mother. You are standing on the corner. This pinprick emits no light; it is dark, it is her silence. Someday you will have a daughter and the dead end will become a cul de sac and all the factories will be shut down or at the edges of town, and the men behind screens will be monitored, blocked. And when things seem safe, and everything is green and historic and homey, you will let her walk from school to park, where you’ll wait for her, thanks to a flexible schedule, on the corner. And when she walks daydreaming along the way and takes too long to reach you, the words they said will hang from the tree you wait under.

This poem appeared on Poem-a-Day, the daily poems from the Academy of American Poets, on May 7, 2020. The author information reads:

“One in a series of poems tracing the ways gender violence is normalized, ‘You Rode a Loop’ is about a first memory of being catcalled, and about memory itself, its iterations and gaps and grip. It is also about the messages girls receive, and the things that go unsaid between mothers and daughters.” 
—Rosa Alcalá

Sunday, April 7, 2019

I used to be a roller coaster girl

by jessica Care moore

(for Ntozake Shange)

I used to be a roller coaster girl
7 times in a row
No vertigo in these skinny legs
My lipstick bubblegum pink
                      As my panther 10 speed.

never kissed

Nappy pigtails, no-brand gym shoes
White lined yellow short-shorts

Scratched up legs pedaling past borders of
humus and baba ganoush
masjids and liquor stores
City chicken, pepperoni bread
and superman ice cream

Yellow black blending with bits of Arabic
Islam and Catholicism.

My daddy was Jesus
My mother was quiet
Jayne Kennedy was worshiped
by my brother Mark

I don't remember having my own bed before 12.
Me and my sister Lisa                           shared.

Sometimes all three Moore girls slept in the Queen.

You grow up so close
never close enough.

I used to be a roller coaster girl
Wild child full of flowers and ideas
Useless crushes on       polish boys
in a school full of       white girls.

Future black swan singing
Zeppelin, U2 and Rick Springfield

Hoping to be Jessie's Girl

I could outrun my brothers and
Everybody else to that

recurring line

I used to be a roller coaster girl
Till you told me I was moving too fast
Said my rush made your head spin
My laughter hurt your ears

A scream of happiness
A whisper of freedom
Pouring out my armpits
Sweating up my neck

You were always the scared one
I kept my eyes open for the entire trip
Right before the drop I would brace myself
And let that force push my head back into

That hard iron seat

My arms nearly fell off a few times
Still I kept running back to the line
When I was done
Same way I kept running back to you

I used to be a roller coaster girl
I wasn't scared of mountains or falling
Hell, I looked forward to falling and dropping
Off this earth and coming back to life

every once in a while

I found some peace in being out of control
allowing my blood to race
through my veins for 180 seconds

I earned my sometimes nicotine pull
I buy my own damn drinks & the ocean
Still calls my name when it feels my toes
Near its shore.

I still love roller coasters
& you grew up to be
of all girls who cld



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