You are on page 1of 56

QUIET LIGHTNING IS

:
a literary nonprofit with a handful of ongoing projects,
including a monthly, submission-based reading series
featuring all forms of writing without introductions or
author banter—of which sparkle + blink is a verbatim
transcript. Since December 2009 we’ve presented 1,100
readings by 700 authors in 100 shows and 80 books,
selected by 50 people through a blind selection process
and performed in 70 venues, appearing so far in bars,
art galleries...a hotel, and a cave.
The shows are also filmed and loaded online—in text
and video—and rebroadcast on public access television.
There are only two rules to submit:
1. you have to commit to the date to submit
2. you only get up to 8 minutes

quietlightning.org/submission-details

SUBSCRIBE
quietlightning.org/subscribe
info + updates + video of every reading

sparkle + blink 81
© 2017 Quiet Lightning
cover © Nancy Calef
nancycalefgallery.com
“What is Danger?” by Charles Kruger first appeared in The Rumpus
“Heroes” by Madeleine Mori first appeared in Apercus Quarterly
“Transplant” by Jenny Qi first appeared in Atticus Review
“On O’Farrell And Powell” by Aurelia Lorca
first appeared in Razorhouse
“A Gentle Rage” by Tony Press first appeared in Menda City Review
book design by j. brandon loberg
set in Absara
Promotional rights only.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form
without permission from individual authors.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the
internet or any other means without the permission of the
author(s) is illegal.
Your support is crucial and appreciated.

quietlightning.org
su bmit @ qui e tl i g h tn i n g . o r g

CONTENTS
curated by

Evan Karp + Kate Folk
featured artists

Nancy Calef | nancycalefgallery.com
A.D. WINANS

Open Your Eyes

1

CASSANDRA DALLETT

Bang Bang Niner Gang

3

CHARLES KRUGER

What is Safety?

7

WILD RED HAWK

Trucker’s Hitch

13

D.S. BLACK

On Walls and Wings

15

MADELEINE MORI Heroes

19

JENNY QI Transplant 21
PAUL CORMAN-ROBERTS

The Sincere

23

AURELIA LORCA

On O’Farrell and Powell

29

AKINYELE SADIQ

California Screaming!

33

MELANIE BELL Mothernever

35

TONY PRESS

A Gentle Rage

37

CHARLIE GETTER

Geography Lesson

41

ET
QU I

G IS SPONSOR
LIGHTNIN
ED B
Y

QUIET LIGHTNING
A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet
Lightning is to foster a community based on literary
expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL
produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on
the first Monday of every month, of which these books
(sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts.
Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the QL board is currently:
Evan Karp
executive director
Chris Cole
managing director
Josey Rose Duncan
public relations
Lisa Church outreach
Meghan Thornton treasurer
Kelsey Schimmelman
secretary
Laura Cerón Melo
art director
Christine No
production
If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in
helping—on any level—please send us a line:
e v an @ qui et light nin g . o rg

AAAAA

AAAAAA

O PEN YO UR EYES
You can’t escape it
Your remote control is wed to it
Local and cable channels feed it to you like
Meat thrown into a tigers cage
News of wars and pending wars reel you in
Like a doomed fish
You become part of it whether
You want to or not
You don’t have to be on the frontlines
To feel the wounds
See the blood taste the carnage
Your parents and grandparents lived it
Willed it to you
The dog feels it every time he wags his tail
The cat hides under the bed but can’t escape it
Walt Whitman walked the battlefields
Bandaged the wounds of the fallen
William Carlos Williams saw it in
The faces of dying patients

1

they built a cemetery on the lawn
of General Lee’s mansion
General Grant tried to drink the pain away
The disease can’t be defeated
The Pope is powerless
The President embraces it
The First Lady dances with it
The vampire Congress feeds off it
It’s a cancer that eats away at you
Sucks you down like quicksand
God hides in the closet
Takes down notes
Jesus sleeps on a bed of nails
Admirals and Generals run through
The fields harvesting the dead
Congress gangsters rattle their sabers
In the midnight oil of democracy
Ballistic missiles pointed at the stars
The firing squads on alert
Petrified standing like mannequins
In a death field
The businessman’s money tree
Bends with the weight of a nation
In slave chains disguised as freedom
Turn on the TV open your eyes
It’s all there to see
2

C

CC
CC

CCCCCCCCCC

CC

BANG BANG
NINER G AN G

If you grew up in San Francisco
you remember when Joe Montana ruled
probably rocked a red satin Forty Niner
Starter a time or two
when wins filled the drunken streets with revelry
when Ocean Beach filled that rare hot day
you probably remember that we always protested here
that the police were dicks but they didn’t kill us
all of the time
This town was a Forty Niner town
working class and freak filled with hippies and punk
rockers
black panthers brown
cholos and gay pride and all of us living side by side
these days you’ll get called a gang banger
for wearing the color of your hometown
In the park where you grew up
the white boy calls you out
his dog chasing you and your food
the white boy moved here
with the blizzard of whites who stand in line
3

late into the night to eat burritos
Mr. Snow ain’t from here
but is so comfortable in his whiteness
he says red jacket makes you a gang member
calls homeless disgusting
calls you wet back
your family has been here longer than he’s been born
There are only white folks in the park now
they are new and white and owning
buildings burned to make way for the crop of them
they call the police on you
the firing squad
without question
empties clips
reloads
59 shots
your 49er jacket blood red
full of holes
you are one more name
to be chanted
in the streets we no longer recognize
I know the police have always worked for the rich
the war on drugs was always about locking brown
people up,
and why all these prisons are built
But I swear this town didn’t used to be so mean
The newspaper doesn’t mention that you went to
school
4

had never been arrested
the newspaper said you were agitated
threatening
there are words
that start with a T
thug and threat
there are trials
police are never charged at trials
White people keep on coming
and coming pointing us out pushing us out
to the edges like animals
to them we are bangers we are beggars
we are tent city trash makers
we the former tenants of San Francisco
dead in jail sleeping under the freeway
out here somewhere
between Stockton and the grave

Cassandra Da lle t t

5

CC

CCCCCCCCCCCC

WHAT IS SAFETY?
“Oh better far to live and die
Under the brave black flag I fly
Then play a sanctimonious part
With a pirate head and a pirate heart!”
The Pirates of Penzance
Gilbert & Sullivan

At 15-years-old, I was a runaway. It was perhaps 9:30 at
night, my first night out, having hitchhiked a couple
of hundred miles north towards Tallahassee, when
they rushed me to the emergency room from the teen
center where I’d gone to look for a crash pad. I’d been
vomiting for half an hour, moaning in pain, from the
migraine attack that had shaken the frightened 20something staff of well-meaning hippies. I’d already
spent the $15.00 in change I’d stolen from the top
shelf in my parents’ bedroom closet from where it was
hidden behind the old pair of binoculars and a couple
of moth eaten scarves. The money had gone to three
expensive meals out, a bunch of donuts, and two joints.
It seemed well spent. After all, I could make money.
Along with the $15.00 I’d also stolen a shoe shining kit.
Surely, that was all I needed.
Anyway, the hippies took my moaning, throwing up,
7

sorry self to the ER where a doctor repeatedly asked
me what drugs I had taken and I repeatedly explained
that I had a migraine, I’d had them before, I knew what
they were, my father is a pediatrician, it runs in the
family, and I hadn’t taken any drugs (although, secretly,
I was certainly planning to smoke the two joints in my
pocket which I fervently hoped were not going to be
found). Eventually, the kind ER staff shot me up with
something to stop the vomiting and let me sleep and
sent me back to the teen center to spend the night on
a cot in an office, wrapped in a comforter. 

I woke up the next morning as happy as a clam! Was
I safe? With nothing but the clothes on my back, two
joints and an attitude, I’d never felt safer. I had escaped
from a home where safety—emotional safety—was
unheard-of, and that was the only kind I understood
or cared about. In my room in the garage, where I’d
been exiled from the main part of the household, I had
actually painted a tombstone over my bed, indicating
my name and date of birth, leaving the rest unfinished.
It took years of therapy, in my 50s, before my kind
and talented doctor felt gently able to suggest an
interpretation: I felt, as a teen essentially rejected by
my family-of-origin (they would deny this), that I was
already dead. 

I did not run away because I didn’t understand
dangers—I understood dangers all too well, but
the dangers I knew at home were more real to me,
seemed more genuinely life-threatening, then those
8

represented by the stranger who picked me up
hitchhiking, the night spent by the side of the road, or
the street drug taken for fun.
I had flung myself out into the world like a pirate on
the high seas, declared myself an outlaw from my very
real and very threatening and truly soul-destroying
oppressors, and it was worth any risk.
Why are pirates so appealing? Because they just
“arrrrggghhhh!”

illustration by ACK!

Ch a rle s Kru ge r

9

I took LSD in a crowd of other teenagers on a snowy
afternoon at the Boston Common, outside a concert,
then walked through the crinkling snow under the
sunset, down Commonwealth avenue through the
quiet streets of Newton, while rainbows of color shot
up from my feet and danced around me like water
snakes and they were singing. Dangerous? I couldn’t
imagine it.
Picked up by strangers on a country highway in rural
North Carolina, I went to stay for a month in a two
story ramshackle country shack with no electricity
or plumbing, where we sat up late at night drinking
cheap wine and throwing pots on an old foot driven
wheel listening to Bob Dylan and Brownie Terry and
Sonny McGee on a battery powered phonograph by
the light of a kerosene lamp. So what if the lamp fell
one night from the paneless window by my bed where
I’d rested it to read myself to sleep with The Lord of
the Rings. We put out the fire, what’s the big deal?
Happiness is worth a lot of risk when you’re running
from misery.
Another time, I stayed overnight with a paranoid guy
who’d picked me up hitchhiking and didn’t mind
giving me a place to sleep, but it was on a pallet on
the floor handcuffed to the foot of the bed because,
he said, he needed to be sure I couldn’t get up in the
night and rob him. Yes, this too, looked like safety. 
On
a rainy night in Baltimore, two junkies took me into
their sketchy slum apartment, cooked me their last
10

pork chop, and made me watch them shoot up while
lecturing: “Promise you’ll never do this.” That felt like
love.
And if there was some risk in all this, well, that was
fun too. I was a pirate, an outlaw, standing up against
forces that were truly trying to destroy me. I wasn’t
wrong.
In early December, 2016, 36 young people lost their
lives when an illegal, dangerously designed warehouse
art collective, Ghost Ship, went up in flames. When
I look at the pictures of Ghost Ship, with the art and
the instruments, the clutter, and the complex and
stimulating space, I don’t see danger—I see a home.
I see safety. I see support and love. I see a necessary
alternative.
It is easy to imagine that anybody who’d stay in such a
so-called “death trap” must be irresponsible, or ignorant,
or crazy, or perhaps a drug addict or an alcoholic. But
I know in my bones that some of us run from dangers
that are all too real to find a home among outsiders that
feels like all kinds of safety. We are fleeing a danger we
know all-too-well, for a safety that is truly profound
and loving and the risks be damned. We can be pirates,
riding the high seas with our fellows, risking all for the
safety of true camaraderie.
Yes, there is tragedy. One can look and see stupidity, and
denial, selfishness, greed, needless loss, exploitation, a
Ch a rle s Kru ge r

11

whole cornucopia of horrors.
But put the kaleidoscope to your eye, matey, and give it
a turn. You might also see hope, and escape, adventure,
risk, love, and—dare I say it?—martyrdom in a good
cause.
Why do pirates seem so cool, so fine, so exciting, so
good, and so happy? Because they just are.

illustration by ACK!

We will never forget.
12

WWW

WWWWWWWWWW

T R U C K E R’S H IT C H
the trucker’s hitch is a knot that took me a few years
to master and much like the cocaine blues once you
get em you will never forget em
Polomo showed me the trucker’s hitch while we
were hauling some building materials i would end up
using to bang together the cabin in the woods my old
lady and i built
the trucker’s hitch is a knot that is bullet proof a
twist and a loop and a jump through the hoop and
even the most brutal load of materials can be secured
with one taught leveraged pull cowboys love this
knot trades folks too it’s a language all itself the
knots one ties to secure the ancient loads from one
place to another the way a man ties down the load
the ropes he uses how many he needs these are all attributes of one’s character even the age of the ropes
are they brand new
are they frayed and weathered how does the
mountain man coil the magical rope back up
where does he hang it on the back of his flatbed
when he drives off into the sunset
13

real shit and i lived it you learn fast on the mountain
especially when you’re new and you’re green
by the time i had been in the mountains a few years
i was banging down the road in my 19 and 85 Grey
Toyota Sr5 long bed with my medicine dog Eddie
rocking the wolverine boots (most folks prefer steel
toe redwings but i never did care for the weight of
the boot) i had my rig dialed in my truck was my
bedroom and my work truck
i had lumber racks and a snug
top
the radio like me was temperamental at best i became
a ridge runner rolling in my straight axel 4 banger
i drove where there were no roads man i cut wood
high up on the ridge where the mountain lions kiss
and kill the wild boar
i also traveled with thick steel chains in my rig (they
sound like an anchor dropping when you pull them
out of the truck) because u never know when you
may have to pull someone out of a ditch or haul a
felled tree home yep driving down the county dirt
road with a felled madrone tree outlaw shit baby no
rules nobody around just the sun the hawks the blue
sky and freedom
i’d like to tie a trucker’s hitch on to my soul

14

DDDDDDDDDD

ON WALLS AND WINGS
The rain, the blur
The world stands still
As I careen uncontrolled
On down the hill—
Don’t wanna die,
Ain’t ready to go,
Just another dent
In some yuppie’s Volvo.
carkus cook
(1960-1996)

Walls close in again
murmur what was and what might be
a friend who Valhallaed 21 years ago
dammit
Remembering Markus Cook
whose zine
Mercury Rising was a clarion flare
for knights errant zagzigging off and on
FiDi sidewalks
wrong footed down one way
street two wheeled steeds
slaloming bankster moguls
coagulating cars sluggishly
15

inching towards the Bridge
Market St. once thick with messengers
proj smiles virtual light by the Wall on Sansome
denim calaveras against the fall
night’s empire reinvented
scrotal sacs deflate ovarian trolleys spark
long week’s deliveries behind the upturned
bikes flicker red blinkies
through a new year litter of calendar leaves
before riding homeward
south of the slot / along Mission St
congealed commuter clot
Markus and friends
attaining mass now critical
boast
we are traffic before confettied
days hit the ground spilled from towers
chipped obsidian Banker’s heart
Mammon’s
pyramid
Moloch
looms over
the
Monkey Block
angst
-ridden entries
marking time’s
16

cruel
gray
City
of blood
one year in and
out another
21 later
where are we but back at the scorcher station
far from Temperance St.
(where we all got wasted at the
Cycle Messenger World Championship)
sad to say my friend even then was just
barely
holding it together — but not for long
On his bike one new year’s day
to Walden House
Markus didn’t make it
we grieved
sharing stories and love at
Glide Church
now whenever I see this wall or that
I think of Markus and his scorched wings
bearing us all away

D.S. Bla ck

17

MM

MMMMMMMMMMM

M

HER OES
for Jaime Serrano
Alone in his coral-colored room,
the shroud of marijuana clings
in our eyes like a half-distilled perfume,
bare feet and white-noise radio beats,
our anthemic groove as divine losers.
The boy my age holds the pot
of gelatin and glitter to baptize us,
a swipe of liquid gold like eye wings, ode to Hermes,
and with one soft finger like a golden raisin
drops a paper star upon my tongue.
An ardent fever, buoyant in the milkness
of the moon, we grope the undulous birth
we begin to see in everything, the television
spilling a silver dew of pixels
like an over-turned paint can upon our bodies.
We listen to Bowie on his turntable
and I think about all the starchildren,
their daddies bruising through fresh night
with a steel flashlight, shame rays,
19

like merry pranksters on Halloween,
grandsons of the silent age.
The boy my age is my brother
and like limbs curling down a river
in crescendos of breathlessness and tremulous light,
I’m stretched dry as a fish bone, when Bowie swings
his gold lips our way and the boy my age says,
He’s my voice.
We can be heroes in this heavenly beat,
toes jerking us up into spasms,
spasms into our hips rolling like
new dancers on a riverboat,
glitzy, resplendent in full drag,
each twist in the muscles of our ankles
as ephemeral as a green flash at sunset,
tracing our limbs with heavy sweat,
scouring the glass stardust into our skin
until there is no skin,
only long strings reverberating
with the stellar crash
of the drugs, this one moment,
burning cool and long
like white dwarves on the edge of a galaxy.

20

JJJJJJJJ

TRANSPLANT
I know all about fights I won’t win.
Friday night in San Francisco,
the fog a cold wall boxing me in,
insular contempt driving me out.
Get out of our city. Go back
to where you came from.
Techie scum. Chink.
Never mind that chinks like me
built this city, dusted its hills
and creaky trains with their bones,
painted bridges with their blood.
Sunday morning, I am sitting
in a free patch of sun in the park,
watching the first dogs arrive,
sniff new tails with suspicion.
I don’t need you to remind me
I’m not from around here.
A transplant

21

that won’t take, like the first
foreign
hearts
rejected by the body
before scientists learned
how to make them beat
as if they always belonged.

22

PP

PP
PP

PPPPPPPPPP

T H E SIN C E R E

PP

P

Nobody remembers the Sincere Cafe anymore, a greasy
Chinese joint that stayed open from 12 pm till 3 am. It
was on 16th just off Valencia in the Mission.
I learned about the Sincere within my first couple
weeks of arriving in San Francisco, when my very own
failed social scene had splintered and blown away in
the Pacific winds. It was a place you could go to score
an enormous plate of way too much veggie chow mein
for $2.99 and for another $1.49 a Xing Dao beer, a carb
orgy that could carry your appetite from the early
evening to the next morning.
Unwilling to return to my lonely hovel of an inherited
studio (a complete rip off at $475 a month in the early
90’s) I would accordingly spend long hours haunting
the counter at the café.
Davey was one of 3 partners at the Sincere, the one
tasked with interacting with the public, and if you sat
at the counter and consumed this feast of starch long
enough, he would talk to you in broken English
about the Dallas Cowboys and how he was making
a killing betting on them, including their games
23

against the 49ers. He could keep this up late into
the swing shift limbo hours when the café became a
haven for junkies, hookers and their new neighbors
the club kids of the Mission who would wander in
broken hearted, hoping to cut their losses at 11pm
or the wasted, inebriated and maybe even the lucky
ones at 2am. He worked all the way till past closing;
a proud non-citizen working for that card, and this
made Davey more of a real American than most of his
customers.
But most important, the Sincere was one of the
legendary San Francisco havens, a sanctuary not just
for the clubbers but for the broken and desperate, the
ones who had fallen off the chase of the dream that
had brought them into this soft looking but hard
living city in the first place, only to wind up far, far off
those paths, seeking absolution in our Chapel of the
Rigs, or deep seated crystal meth abasements.
What Davey knew then, and what I know now, was
that this was the kind of world where any damn fool
could get lucky for years at a time if they bluffed their
cards with just the right nuance.
You could fuck a celebrity here if you didn’t mind
humping them halfway down their own slow spiral,
happy to introduce you to all their happening
connections, you know: Jello, Lawrence, maybe
Francis.

24

How is that so many beautiful people weaved their
way in and out of this junkie landscape so fluidly?
It was always hard for me to stare into the orgy pit
without bursting into spontaneous combustion so
how can I be expected to even go moshing in it?
Today, the internet spills over into the consensual
reality. Back then it was the indie press, punk rock,
performance art, indie film, radical activist scenes that
were spilling over into the consensual reality. All those
things have been eaten by the internet.
It’s profound, bittersweet and sublime, to suddenly
realize you’ve known all these people who live in
these worlds from previous worlds you’ve lived in; to
realize that you know them from all your other squalid
existences and that not only are they your other family,
but that they are your real family.
And to suddenly realize, with sincere clarity, that you
have now gone quite insane. It becomes easier to hurt
yourself. So many tricks we know. So many tricks we
do.
The Mission was the bardo, a surreal waiting room
between life and death, where we attempted to rebirth
ourselves. The Tenderloin was the bardot we landed
in after we failed all the other bardos and consensual
realities rejected us, turned us out, or maybe that was
Oakland. It’s so hard to tell anymore. It’s so hard to
remember. The Sincere and Davey are long gone now.
Pau l Corman- Robe rt s

25

But one thing I remember for sure is that this was
the time I started dreaming of an archetypal mansion,
always dark and mysterious at the beginning of a
dream, always a sense of dread and being chased blind
through corridors archetypal dream. But in these
dreams, the mansion’s entrances and floors and stories
would shift wildly between modest Satanic Grottos
and a pop up World Trade Center but that our entire
family lived inside this structure without us ever really
seeing each other, all serving out our sentences here in
the Goldilocks Zone, in that perfect edge of the galaxy,
in that perfect window of orbit in the solar system, on
the perfect island, with the perfect city for a perfect
café and a perfect plate of cheap chow mein for which
there is an ever increasing long line of people waiting
for the doorman to let them in.
You tell me and I know: it’s not healthy to keep coming
back here. I keep pretending, by singing to the people
waiting around me, “does anyone remember the Sincere
Cafe? Remember how she said we would meet there soon,
some sunny day?”
Go ahead: throw all your books at me. Casual stalking
and casual plagiarism aren’t crimes so much as gutter
level market commodities. That’s why the object of
your affection won’t ever fuck you. No one wants the
party to be over, or wants the salon’s saloon to close.
None of us wants the increasing distance between
ourselves. But here it comes. Here it is.

26

Maybe it sucks to say this, but this is how one starts
to believe this really is the family we asked for; these
artists, these hustlers, and sometimes yes, I even think
I still see Davey out there. No matter how many times
I run away; no matter how many times you run away,
we always end up right back here: at the Sincere.

Pau l Corman- Robe rt s

27

ON O

AAA

AAAAAAAAAA

’FARRELL AND POWELL

Did I say I love you?
I was on my way to a protest for the Ukraine in Union
Square.
Did I say I love you?
I was late.
I walked by you on O’Farrell and Powell across from
Macy’s.
I was late, and I was walking down O’Farrell, and the
sun was so bright, you were crouched on the corner
with a row of backpacks and someone’s pit bull. Your
face was so bruised and swollen I almost did not
recognize you. I looked down and I almost didn’t
recognize you because your face was purple. Like a big
blueberry. I think I even gasped. You said hi but you
did not smile. Everything was so bright, the sun was so
bright, and your face was so dark.
“What happened?” I asked.

29

“Some guys at the bar next to our squat on California
and Hyde didn’t like the way we looked,” you said.
“They thought we had a knife, we didn’t. There were
six of them and two of us. The bar called the cops—
they knew we had been squatting there and not giving
anyone any problems. The cops said we could press
charges, but I didn’t have my ID, and my buddy is on
parole. So we didn’t.”
I asked if you still had the jacket I bought you. You yelled
of course and pointed to it on top of your backpack.
“I didn’t sell it,” you said.
“That wasn’t what I meant,” I said. “I just wanted to
make sure you were ok, if it was keeping you warm.”
You were with Luna, your friend’s dog, a skateboard,
and all of your backpacks. I didn’t know what to do
or say.
There was something larger than myself on that street
going on—not just the protest up in Union Square. The
sunlight was so bright and there were people around.
Whatever it was felt so big, and all was exposed. It
was too big and too mushy to be on the street corner
like that with so many people around. Your face was
unnaturally bruised, and not just from getting beat up.
I know now it was a sign that your heart was giving out.
I gave you ten dollars.
30

“You don’t have to do that,” you said, “I don’t want your
money.”
“Please,” I said, “just be ok.”
I was running late to a protest. My friend also was
once a junkie and knew more dead than the living, I
wanted to support her. The world was bigger than my
heartache. I was running late, so I asked you to come
with me and you said you couldn’t but you would
meet me later.
There was still something I had to say. I think I said it.
I stood there and I said I love you there on the street
corner, on O’Farrell and Powell. Once upon a time it
upset you when I said I love you too much, but I said it
there on the street corner, even though it felt so weird
to be so vulnerable like that.
I didn’t think it would be the last time I ever saw you.
I just needed to say I love you because your face was
so black and blue.
I didn’t think it would be the last time I saw you. I just
wanted you to know that I loved you.
You told me that you’d meet me later, that you had
to wait for your friends, that you couldn’t leave their
dog and backpack, that you’d come to the protest, but
it was the last time I ever saw you other than in my
dreams.
Au re li a Lorca

31

AAA

AAAAAAAAAAA

“PAT P
ARKER PRESENTE!” (PT. 2 OF 3)

C A LIF O

RNIA SCREA M IN G !

(“Freedom is a constant struggle;
if you want some, you’ve got to make trouble!”)
Where in the world ARE we?
Who’s from Texas? From TEXAS?
FAR from Texas!
Could not GET more far out, without swimming the
Pacific, to Red China,
halfway back to Black Africa, past India, getting over
England AND France,
‘cause she sees—CALIFORNIA!
seeks SOME thing, NEW thing, freedom dreams,
California SCREAMING!
seeing some thing, NEW thing, Lost Angels,
learning a NEW thing, a new Black thing,
mountains meet the sea, and
we see each OTHER.
At least one brother,
teacher, lover, hater, un-healthy,
got she scared to death (ALMOST!)
She tried & tried, and...
got TIRED of it.
Tired of ego-testicle BULL, in-side a human
33

movement!
Sick & TIRED! of ego-testicle BULL, in-side a human
movement!
Had to head North, rise UP!
the marriage idea was NOT working,
had to escape North, fists UP, fight BACK!
Beat the Beats at their own biz.
Rising, rolling, reading,
Right On, right-on-time.
Oaktown Lovers, Varied Voices.
“I knew where I was going!”
Not “ladies”, only women.
Not “ladies”, only women,
sisters, singers, “sinners”, SHOUTERS!
Lord, Lord, LORDE, Audrey!
She & she & she & she KNEW where she was Go-GoGoing!
AND
She—Come—STRONG!

34

MMM

MMMMMMMMM

M OTHERNEVER
My mother never went to Vegas, took a plane to
where the skyline
canyoned. Never slept with the strange man who’d
been to Thailand, never
spoke with girls in black whose skin smelled of
crushed flowers.
My mother never walked the strip alone, she never
saw the smiling dolphins lightshow fountains
Caesar’s Palace never
caught volcano’s sparking cone, heard crowd
Isscoming Shh
Issgonnasplode
before it

did

They say my mother used to be a mountaingoat in
Europe now
her daughter’s sitting blanketed in leaves before four
arches, thorned red branches.
Arches bring good luck she thought her mother told
her, talking about France—
her mother’d missed her chance, misread the
35

landmarks, fortune never
guaranteed. For years the daughter’d sanctified McDonald’s, beatified the curves
of broken trees. False idols. What luck she had she
doubted came from them.
My mother never went to Asia, took her path to
oftenbeaten skies, she never
sunk her head in fountains, never drowned in orchid
petals’ arches never
picked zucchini fields or sang into the stables, never
loved
to whisper Shhhhh
Shh
motherneverdaughter
cruised the false canals inside the hotel malls or
strolled the plastered Paris never
tried on fur designer, never stayed for free or ate for
free or rode the coaster never
slept inside a pyramid of rats or held the girlman
smelled their Thailandpetal skin.

36

TTTTTTTTTT

A G E N TL E R A G E
I’ve lived in this house 45 years. I’m 91. You do the
math.
Yesterday I went to see the house and neighborhood
of my youth—not my thirties, but my childhood. That
was a long time ago. Yesterday is already pretty far
back, too.
I almost wrote “yesterday I drove to see the house”
but that, unfortunately, would be a lie. I haven’t
driven anywhere in six months, since the day my kids
descended like interveners from that television show,
and presto, they had my keys.
Oh, they praised me to the skies, my courage, the
rightness of my decision, how wonderful it was I had
made the choice, not them, but God it happened fast.
That’s the new deal—and I do recall the real New
Deal—things creep along, just creep and creep, but in
a flash, everything changes. As my tax guy said, when
I told him I intended to drop dead in my home: “We
all do, but you, my friend, are one fall away from
something very different.”

37

So now, in addition to the unmitigated joy of moving
with a walker with two tennis balls, when I’m
anywhere outside the house, there’s more. If I want to
go anywhere, someone has to take me. I’ve been driving
for 75 years. Try stopping that on a dime. It’s not easy.
What it is, is the shits, pardon the expression. And, no,
I won’t digress into the real shits, and that delight. I
won’t. I keep saying: “Never get old,” and everybody
laughs, thinking I’m being funny.
But I want to tell you about that trip. We left at nine
and arrived by eleven. Obviously it wasn’t terribly far
but I hadn’t been back in, in, in a long time. I don’t like
the expression “in decades” but I could use it often if I
wanted. I don’t.
Like they say, everything looked smaller. So what. I’m
smaller, too. I used to be five-nine, but now I’m barely
five-five, and pants keep sliding off. My license still
says five-nine, for all the good that does me.
We got there, my son driving his silent Prius, me in
the suicide seat, and he parked in front of the house.
“This is it, right, Dad?” He had a Google print-out and
a GPS thing. I said yes. Maybe it was. Doesn’t make
any difference, you just do what they say, and say what
they want. It’s easier.
I’m sure I slept all the way home, and probably most
of the way up there. I know I missed the bridge in
both directions. I remember crossing the bay for years,
38

from a different house, when I worked in the city. I
remember driving my car onto the morning ferry,
coffee on the way over two beers coming home. I
always stood outside, in sun or mist or fog or rain, it
didn’t matter. I was alive.
It’s all past tense now.

Tony P re ss

39

CC

CCCCCCCCCCCC

GEOGRAPHY LESSON
The world is full of land-locked places
places where the ocean can’t get to
the ocean with its power
and its waves and its dominance
 
dominance across the wide face of this
world, hundreds of thousands of miles
of pure power
 
splitting the world
from itself with its grandeur and its arrogance
 
land-locked places don’t see that ocean
that tells us that we ain’t so bad
 
and the world is full of land-locked places
and land-locked places are hell
 
I’ve been to Switzerland
and Switzerland is land-locked
and Switzerland is hell
 
I’ve never been to Bolivia
but Bolivia is a land-locked place
so Bolivia must be hell
 
the first tweakers came from Bolivia
41

they chewed leaves
and stayed up all night
and their tents were really really clean
 
but they didn’t care
because they knew they lived in a land-locked place
and as is the same with all land-locked places
 
it was hell
 
and I can see so far over the ocean
my heart can be its own sea gull
sailing on the wings of the ocean’s power
 
to distant shores 
where they make
funny-looking buildings
and really good Chinese food
 
but my heart turns into a snail
or a three-toed sloth
when it tries to see into a heart
in a land-locked place
because as is the same with all land-locked places...
it was hell
 
Kansas was never the answer to anything,
not even for Dorothy
 
it’s black and it’s white
and there’s no cowardly lion to protect you
 
Switzerland is not my kind of an answer
written across the sky by a smoky plane
42

for one thing, it’s almost impossible to spell
 
and a spell is what I’m under
and this kind of feeling hasn’t happened to me
for a very long time
 
because poetry is an affliction
and if it isn’t, then you shouldn’t do it
and the afflicted gather in every corner of the world
but those who got it bad
those who got it real bad
we know who we are
we know each other
and we need each other
and I’m a rambling fool
who knows where the land ends and the ocean begins
and it sure as hell don’t in Kansas
 
because land-locked places are hell
 
and I can see the sky clear,  as I pull my Geo Metro
away from the coast,  and over the mountains, and
through the deserts, and over more mountains
 
to where the flat land rushes
to meet the over arching sky
and the wind blows
and sometimes drops houses on witches
and sometimes holds mysteries
that a couple of meaningless hours
within a few worthless days
 
did far too little to illuminate
 
Ch a rli e Ge t t e r

43

because Kansas isn’t the answer
neither is any…where
 
It’s a different interrogative
and San Francisco can slowly sink below the horizon
as
I can only watch,
as the waves play on the sand,
and my dog chases birds

44

Subscribe q u i e t l i gh t n i n g . o rg

info + updates + video of every reading

Read quietlightning.org/sparkle-blink

every past show

Scene l i tseen . co m

calendar + reviews + interviews + purviews

Also by Quiet Lightning
quietlightning.org/books

The Sacred Text of Rosa
Who is Great
by marcus lund
illustrated by stella peach

by

Breast Milk
tupelo hassman

if you want to be one of them
playing in the streets…
by zack haber

- january 2, 2017 -

Related Interests