Sunday, October 29, 2023

To Mars from Arizona

 by Alberto Rios

Saturday mornings were science fiction—
That is, on that day anything was possible.

We didn’t have to go to the movies for that,
Though when we did, we were introduced to ourselves

More than anything. Ourselves in rockets,
Ourselves taking chances, ourselves speaking to the universe.

Outside of the movies, we were still in them—
Our bikes were our rockets, our submarines, our jets.

But mostly, and first, our bikes were our horses 
In this childhood West, a loyal, red Western Flyer

Taking me everywhere, up and down, fast and slow.
Only later did I understand it was my own legs

That did it all. My own legs and my arms to steer,
My own small, mighty lungs to shout—

A shout that would later become a song.
When they weren’t horses, when my legs were tired,

When the shouts calmed down into just talking,
We bike-riders would sit, and find in that talking 

The gold we had been looking for, though we didn’t know it.
The gold was made of plans for Saturdays still to come—

We each had different ideas, but we all had them,
Speaking them confidently as if we were lions,

Deep-voiced and sure even in that quietude.
What would happen next was far away,

But even as we rested, something in us knew
We would catch the future no matter how fast it ran.

“This is a simple testament to our childhood and adult imaginations both, looking at how time allows us to see the same thing in more than one way. I grew up on the border, literally, but it was never one thing. This poem helps me to understand that the border wasn’t simply about geography, but about the border between today and tomorrow; between what we were doing and what we were going to be doing; the certainty of that hopeful and creative and powerful sensibility—‘I’ was in harmony with the bravado of ‘I am.’”
—Alberto Ríos

Friday, October 27, 2023

from Freud Cycle--Untitled (Freud's Desk & Chair, Study Room 1938

 by Andres Cerpa

At breakfast I feed him my dreams as I arrange

his pills on the table. He is best in the morning,

when his wings lift from the labyrinth,

when he shaves, has an espresso.

Father, I dreamt last night that I was riding

a bicycle down a road in the country,

stones in my pockets to toss at the stray dogs.

I was afraid. The road continued into a fallen

green as the negligent moon took over the sky.

I could hear the dogs off in the distance

as I pedaled towards a clearing where one deer

stood; its proud antlers swayed in the silver 

& I was silent. Silent as I've ever been. Calm.

Then you. You sprinted from the tree line:

openmouthed, unshaven, & took

the deer by its hind legs to drink your fill.

I wanted to run. I did. but ran toward you.

Thursday, October 26, 2023



by Safia Elhillo
after Jenny Xie

Concentric ripple of the canals, little apartment 
at the center point. All June I’ve been in Amsterdam, 
vowels softening to liquid in my mouth. Long walks 
over the cobblestones in the warmest part 
of the afternoon, narrow houses along the water arranged 
like crooked teeth. My steps lead me over a ballet 
of bridges, precarious choreography of bicycles 
and other bodies, the rare car vulgar and roaring 
along the too-small street. I count the faces around 
that could be my faces, features and shades 
from a much older world than this. City I may never 
see again, and still my old need to belong. To daughter
the possibly Sudanese man at the Chipsy King, 
his kind assurance that the dish contains no pork. 
My nails soften and split in the cool dry air. An ashen 
gray patch on my calf and I am ashamed for hours after, 
wetting a finger with saliva to correct it.

from Poem-A-Day, May 8, 2023:

“I wrote this poem during a month-long residency in Amsterdam during which I attempted a 30/30 (thirty poems in thirty days) with my friend Hala Alyan. It’s written after Jenny Xie’s poem ‘Corfu,’ which is one of my all-time favorite travel poems. So much of my writing practice during that month involved going on long walks and describing to myself what I was noticing, what I was feeling, retraining my poet’s eye to the present day after a long obsession with history, with all my life’s great ruptures. In this poem, the worst thing that happens is that I was, briefly, ashy. And that was as deserving of poetry as anything else that’s happened.”
Safia Elhillo

 Portrait & Shadow

by Andres Cerpa

The curtains sail into the room with the memory of presence behind them

while my father waits in the dark taking apart what is left of his former selves,
        like a pianist, drunk at the keys, playing the same four notes,

letting them ring in the pedals until they haul themselves back into sleep.

He says, I am shadow

& the thief at the seam of his spine slides through the blades of his shoulders,
        hollows the blood, while the dopamine cheapens

like a dollar-store lighter & suddenly, another streak in his Depends emerges as proof.

This too in Arcadia--

the meadow in twilight's last streak of red before he enters the tree line,

which is already waiting, its small footpaths like paintings held in storage,
        their deep palettes so close they strangle to a labyrinth

laced on an MRI-black. The wolf there tears at his tendons,

leaves him always in a fog, & if he emerges it is only to watch but not to enter
        the burning city & self he still loves.

He says, I am the smoke's mascara

& I know he is imagining the Bronx he can never return to,
        where his youth is held in the thin frame of a bicycle

as it cuts through a billow of smoke. The city burned each night & each morning
        he rose to ride through the rubble. The what was,

the father I hold onto to care for his shadow never gets old--

he is kind & clear. He rises each morning & lifts me onto the back of his bicycle,
        he pedals while I glide above the city in wonder.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Jubilate Civitas


by Patrick Phillips

I will consider a slice of pizza.

For rare among pleasures in Gotham, it is both
     exquisite and blessedly cheap.

For its warmth is embracing, its smell the
     quintessence of hope.

For it can be found in all boroughs, every few blocks,
     yet never two slices the same.

For its makers speak many tongues.

For dusting the counter with cornmeal and flour,
     without looking down, they pummel and roll out
     the dough.

For they heap out the still-steaming sauce and, with a
     touch of the ladle, paint it in rings like a bull’s-eye,
     or a tree-stump, or a thumb.

For they smile at each other’s jokes, grasping great
     handfuls of cheese.

For wiping both hands on an apron, they nod at the
     phrase “not too hot,” and start one of a hundred
     little clocks in their heads.

For their corded forearms reach deep in the oven with
     a long-handled paddle, giving each pie, with a flick,
     its requisite spin.

For heat bubbles and blisters and browns the
     miraculous crust.

For even in the tiniest shop you can find every style:
     sagging with mushrooms and bacon, broccoli and
     pineapple, chicken, and sausage, and onion.

For time passes slowly awaiting a slice, and reminds us
     how sweet it is to be alive at this moment on earth.

For it slides to a stop in a little city of shakers, where
     with pepper and oregano, garlic and parmesan, we
     citizens make it our own.

For you can fold it in half like a taco and eat it while
     standing or driving, or walking and working your

For I have seen the bearded young men of Brooklyn
     sit upright to eat it, riding bicycles through
     redlights, at midnight, in the rain.

For with each bite the paper plate grows more
     translucent with grease, till it glows like stained
     glass over the trash can.

For it has nourished our children and soothed many

For in a time of deceit it is honest and upright,
     steadfast and good—beloved and modest and

For its commerce makes nobody rich and nobody

For that, to us, it is home.

From the book Song of the Closing Doors

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.)