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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 800 authors in 110 shows and 90 books,
selected by 50 people through a blind selection process
and performed in 70 venues, appearing everywhere
from dive bars and art galleries to state parks and
national landmarks.

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


info + updates + video of every reading
sparkle + blink 89
© 2017 Quiet Lightning

cover © Katie McCann

“Periodic Fits” by Cassandra Dallett
first appeared in Bad Sandy (Pedestrian Press)
“Watching Fast Black” by Cassandra Dallett
first appeared in Water Wars (Pedestrian Press)
“Lovely and Lonely...” by Cassandra Dallett
from Collapse (forthcoming, Nomadic Press)
“When the Guns Clap” by Cassandra Dallett
first appeared Water Wars (Pedestrian Press)
“60s Again” by Cassandra Dallett first appeared as “It’s the Sixties
Again” in Rusty Truck
“At the Motel Behind the Denny’s” by Christine No
first appeared in Writing Without Walls
“Long-billed Curlews” by Hugh Behm-Steinberg
first appeared in Sweet
“Flower Instructions” by Maw Shein Win written for “Flower
Interruption,” a collaboration with artist Megan Wilson for the
LIZ/Living Innovation Zone at the Asian Art Museum

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.

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author(s) is illegal.

Your support is crucial and appreciated.
su bmit @ qui e tl i g h tn i n g . o r g
curated by
Quiet Lightning
featured artist
Katie McCann |

KIM SHUCK Green Glass 1
Long Road Car 2
Sunflowers 3
Hero 4
One Feather Dropping Wise 6
Rattle 7
The Rain is Coming 8
FAITH ADIELE from On Walking and Writing 9
CHRISTINE NO At the Motel Behind Dennys 19
Sainthood 22
Ariel 25
My Red Name 27
End of Lease 29
New Years Day 30
JASON BAYANI Antidepressants 33
Greater Joy 36
Kein/Muenchen 38
Watching Fast Black 44
Lonely and Lovely
are Almost Spelled the Same 46
When the Guns Clap 50
60s Again 53
Atomic Dog 56
MAW SHEIN WIN Flower Instructions 59
Listen 61
Durian 63
Grapefruit 63
Limes 64
Three Teenage Poems 68
Two Poems on Kissing 70
Long-billed Curlews 71
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

Once a year, Quiet Lightning honors exceptional
members of our community—our Neighborhood
Heroes—for a special edition of our show (and
accompanying issue of sparkle + blink).

For a full list of our Heroes, to read their work and
watch them read with Quiet Lightning:

sparkle + blink 89—the very book you are
holding in your hands—features writing by this
year’s Heroes.

For their bios and links, visit:

We would love to know who your heroes are,
and who you’d like to see participate in Quiet
Lightning. Please send any nominations, thoughts,
and/or questions to:

evan at quietlightning dot org


He’s flaking old beer bottles into
Precarious leaves the
Summer fog is thick and the
Shards click and ring and
Drip an 

Absolute June green how long can you 

Hold your breath?
There is a 

Dry smell in the air

Sticky and bitter how long can you dance to a

Rhythm of urban leaves the

Foliage of walking away

Something must have moved because he 

Wasn’t there last week the
Seasonal election 



Pages from a book we are writing about salvation the

Postcards blow down
Sanchez like

Fall there is no other 

Nowhere but here

Crossing and crossing the Truckee
I unravel
Am woven back
San Francisco Bay to 

Where my heart curls unfinished
On the long road
Some mountains are impatient some
Creeks unhurried
Stripers arranging
Songs coded in gill and
Fan meltwater to prayer
Something they can dance to
In the car
Cheek pressed to glass the Wasatch
Hum stories of great blue heron
Mumble water to salt
Count time by birds
In my grandmother’s voice
Some will think of this as metaphor
Others recognize a feather when they see it
At night
With all of the bird thoughts
Caught in my hair
Like highway reflectors
We can stay between the lines
Can read history by this light
Road spirits pulling us
Towards the ache that might be healing


They arrive at the front door they
Pick through the beads they
Stare through them
Whisper poems to the pines

Because these days are short

Every seed watches and

Who knows what they are thinking?

Generational affiliation

I find dried seeds in the toes of my shoes

Singing of dancing of


I find dried seeds 

Every day closer to the creek

It isn’t patience

It’s hunger

Ki m Sh u ck 3

Weight and shape of bravery
Is particularly your own
Is not the only challenge you will face
Morning today was not as cold
Tests of your heart are
Constant I have seen you
Wedging yourself into cracks between window
and frame
Seen you squarely on your feet
Beak to muzzle with mythology
Fortunately a story you recognize
Conclusions reeling out in all directions
Blue and light blue and then
Unseeable but this is a thing you’ve seen
By your own childhood sweat dream
In this moment you are too tired for fear
Eyes open this is
Actually dangerous
Equation of meat and alcohol and anger
Your calm doesn’t help and you are
Not interested in the choreographies of submission
Physical language that too many women are forced
to learn

Feet firm you do not conform
Sad for the moment you do not conform
Tomorrow can be anything else tonight is not yet an

Ki m Sh u ck 5

The bay wakes
Shakes her wings
As if her body was a bell as if
Bells yearn to ring warning
She arranges her feathers and 

One drops

Wise and damp 

To the pebbled shore that sings importance and


As if a bay can forget what it can be

Forget how to rainbow or

Essential lessons in healing

As if bodies have forgotten the

Ocean as if we’ve let slip the habits of salt 

Blood and dancing with the moon

A palm placed on the fallen feather knows

Remembers that selling isn’t knowing

Slip banks

Shake the equation of wings start the 

Deep work of making well


When the first four-legged frog cousin
Pulled herself out of water it wasn’t rejection
Soft wet skin called her back again and again
Blood a
Contract with water a

Promise in the cells a

Rattle we pick up and hand on a

Moaning song that arches and

Clenches to 

Bring our babies cradled in

Water a 

Gift returned a

Rattle we pick up and

Hand over one

Generation to the next

Ki m Sh u ck 7

Panic is a luxury for those
Who are only in danger
Relax between battles
Some people don’t want your
Smile or help
Don’t want you in the neighborhood they have
Chosen from a catalog
There is a heat that only comes from these sidewalks
Nowhere else
And I can only sleep with my head on the shoulder of
Cousin these days
Perilous I understand
Explain to me
What is safe
Away from this kitchen table
Texture and quality
We weave
Weaving time is here
Stand with me here
In the ceremony of living



you are walking, your writer-mind sputtering
from one image-stone to another in the stream.
Monkey-mind, you learned to call it in the temple. It’s
like African storytelling, each story alive in the past,
present and future, the three realities swirling by each
other, like one of your father’s untethered stories,
where he could be talking about the armed robber who
shot him in the chest at the side of a Nigerian highway
before you knew him, or the doctor who just now
replaced his pacemaker in Nebraska, or the coming
pain, when a demagogue will highjack democracy in
Africa or America and break all our hearts.

The way your writer-mind is working, a word or idea
from one story becomes a jumping off point to another
story that circles back—not so much a sequential
progression of stories, but opaque layers, as if your
mind were constructing hypertext,
ideas and words
layered and linked,
Yes, that’s it. You’ve always been like this, but since
the advent of the interwebs, it’s become worse.

you are walking a dirt path in a regional park in
northern California. Yes, walking for recreation, you!
Six years since moving to the Bay Area, the prodigal
daughter’s return to the West Coast, a little dismayed
not to be folded into your California friends’ lives the
way you were during visits, but even more dismayed to
receive invitations from potential replacement friends
to get together for “a walk”.

A walk?

After having finally escaped cold, segregated places
like Boston and Iowa and Pittsburgh: a walk?

And not a walk to any place, say, to walk around an
organic farmers’ market (one available nearly every
day of the year somewhere) or to watch subcultures
race from one picturesque destination to another in
costumes or nothing at all. No. A walk as the destination,
a troubling cultural practice suggesting that, after all
your years spent accruing degrees and scars in the East
Coast and Midwest, you are no longer West Coastian.

This becomes even more clear when you receive a
party invitation that includes the directive, “b. y. o.
mug for tea.” You are (somewhat) African, and wonder
what, exactly, would lead this poor hostess to believe
that anything she has planned for the evening—the
setting of intentions, the conversations about social
justice, the brewing and consuming of (you’re guessing,
herbal) teas in guest-provided mugs—could remotely

be considered a “party”.

Should you do an intervention, gently suggest she
should avoid using the words mug, tea and party in
the same sentence?

But somehow now, a mere year (or three) later, you’ve
drunk the Kool-aid and are walking alongside all the
other northern Californian, Teva’d, Hi-Tex’d, Merrill’d
hikers with their hamster-sized dogs and babies
strapped with expensive contraptions to toned backs
and chests.

Your eyes land on the feet of the hiker ahead, which
reminds you of the last time you did walking practice,
really did it. You were a Buddhist nun in the Thai
forest, wrestling with this body of yours, which had
been so maligned and menaced at college, in classist,
sexist, racist Boston, that you’d flunked out and fled
the entire northern hemisphere to a cool bit of shade at
the foot of a storybook waterfall to lick your wounds
and tame your obsessive mind that runs up and down
every possible path faster than your body ever could.

For 19 hours a day, long before Mindfulness was a Bay
Area catchphrase, you upheld a vow of silence and
single daily meal, forsook money and shoes, and tried
your hand at Insight Meditation, either sitting on
the wooden floor of your hut until you thought your
scoliosis would snap your back in two, or creeping
down cement walkways, beside the manicured gardens,

Fa i t h Adi e le 11
next to the rushing mountain stream. It was difficult,
not to mention boring, and you learned to wear a veil
over your head to stop from inadvertently breathing in
gnats and committing Buddhist murder. Your favorite
moment was when the nuns gathered at the morning
bell and processed to the daily meal, you, the lowest
in rank and last in line, trying to ignore your unruly
breasts, focusing instead on your ragged breath and
the green breathing of the forest around you and the
muffled beauty of the foot of the nun before you: the
strong, golden arch as the foot rose, the pristine white
cloth pooling on stone as the foot dropped.

Your mother, who reminds you of the head nun, with
her impossibly high ethical standards and fearless
determination, has impossibly high arches and tiny
feet, more than two sizes smaller than yours, despite
her weight. When you were young and just a few
years out of government cheese, the entire trailer
home would shake as she sped down the hallway
towards either the bathroom or your room, and you
would pause mid-play, trying to gauge the signals in
her step—excited to share a book with you, enraged
at some imagined disrespect, or merely in need of a
pee? She talked too fast and walked too fast for such
tiny feet, and in her later years has taken to losing
her footing and tripping on doorjambs, tumbling
down stairs, flying over cracks in the sidewalk (you
don’t even need to do it—she’s gearing to break your
mother’s back herself, literally).

You’re torn between an adult-child’s terror that your
only immediate family member on this continent will
fall and then require hip replacement surgery and then
develop bedsores and then contract pneumonia and
die (isn’t that the progression?), and a still-adolescent
impatience that when you walk together, she trails
behind, as if you were the head nun, the two of you
unable to walk abreast like equals. Your mother suffers
from arthritis, exacerbated by her weight, and takes
tiny, mincing steps like a courtly Chinese woman with
bound feet, but if you slow down for her, she slows
even more, so you’re still ahead but going nowhere.

Occasionally she barks out, “Pause! Hold for a minute!”
sounding irritated and imperious, which irritates you:
If she’s not going to walk with you, then why should
she care how many steps ahead you are? And, who is
she to be barking out commands, so many years out of
the trailer home? You have your own two-story house
and a career and admirers and a husband who walks
like a little boy, completely flat-footed, slap-sliding
around the house in Made in Taiwan flip-flops, which
in Nigeria they call appropriately enough, “slippers”.

Slap-slip Slap-slip: He comes to a stop and stands like
a little boy, small round bottom high, grinning eagerly
like a little boy, which is one of his greatest charms,
though his boyishness is one of his greatest failings too,
the way he shouts out random, hurtful nonsense during
arguments or awakes every morning as if newly born,
fully believing that this time his latest money-making

Fa i t h Adi e le 13
scheme will bear fruit and today he will start paying
the bills that are starting to weigh on your body, like
the extra you that is pooling and settling as you heal
less quickly from your car being rear-ended last spring,
more than a year ago, from the breast biopsy this fall
that led to three infections, from the winter virus that
in two months has downgraded from feeling like a
toddler standing on your chest, to an infant balancing
on soft feet, as puffy as your own. You awake, hand to
throat, gasping for breath, while he awakes, sunny and
full of belief in today, completely unencumbered by
the 1,295 days before today, this moment.


I once was told to make a list of my successes
instead I wrote a list of my failures,
here we go!

Being straight.

Learning about credit scores and
why the fuck they should matter.

Not running away when I was a kid.
Running away when I was a kid,
I always found my way back
or they found me.

Not lying at least once every day.
No, they’re not terrible lies… maybe.

Doing the right thing.

Killing myself.

Not drinking. AA.
The other twelve step programs I’ve joined
that I won’t mention because, whatever,

anonymous for a reason, right?

Being a good brother. Being a good son.
Being a good boyfriend.

Being a good friend. Being good to myself.
Being a good bottom.

Gong to U.C. Berkeley, sorry Dad.
Being Mexican, according to some Mexicans
I’ve been doing it wrong for the past 32 years.
That is a lie. 36 years.

Having a savings account. With money in it.
Being Gay.
Technology. Acquiring property.
Knowing the correct meaning of words.
Grammar. Spelling. Monogamy.

Being in a Band. Blogging. Not using deodorant.
Being a vegetarian. Being a Vegan. Being a raw Vegan.

Catholicism. Atheism. Being Goth.
That one really hurt, I really wanted to be Goth.

Forgiving myself.

Pushing myself.
Meditation. Guitar.

Making sense of why I’m here.
Piano. Jogging.

Breaking through the walls of reality in search
for other realms or planes of existence beyond
comprehension of my human understanding.

Growing up.

Ba ru ch P orras- He rnande z 17



High on the I-40
Up since six no sex and

The stoned row of Cabbies
White plates, empty Big Gulps
Plastic St. Christopher –

—an altar on the sticky dash

The wet haired priestess
Her bare feet
Holy black soles pad
From room to room to room, cooing:

I’ll be your ghost – queen
I’ll be your anything

Invite me in

Moonlight, neon - Exit sign
The porcelain bath - the hiss, the squeak

The water comes
My cue

Let me clean
Your tired soles

Mutter your transgressions
Into my mouth

I will bear witness
To your secret sins

In room 7B:
Hail Mary


Once I loved a traveler.
Once an ambassador, a fog
– so sweet and hard

Once a ghost
A soft half-opened mouth
Her cold finger, snug beneath

We speak our woes differently
We repent our sins the ways we were shown
By others, full of grace

He slipped his confession
My hands grip the tired sink

Under running water he said:
Hail Mary


I have mastered the art of the perfect fit.
I have mastered Love, and not-love.
Mastered go-on, get-out, good-night 

I have mastered alone.

My favorite lover sunrise
My second lover’s billfold
All my lovers, secret sinners
Here for absolution

The last confession,
Continental breakfast
Coffee black,

I have forgiven
I have been forgiven

And repeat:
Hail Mary

Ch ri st i ne No 21


Motel room Patron
Saint of cigarettes O! keeper of dirty secrets
Two thighs, Milk white

Lift that blue dress –
An absolution

Tungsten Haloed

Says: Honey, Sainthood begins
and Sainthood ends—


Holy ghost of black dog and Winnebago
Odd job Sam, no address neighbor -

Found him
In the Costco lot
No sign of dog -

Can’t do this any more.
I want to go home—


Does location make confession holy?

Indiscretion in rest stop bathrooms, thumbing
broken tiles, like rosary

On warehouse floors,
Fervent Magdalena at my lover’s feet

Washed, Perfumed,
Tongued a benediction, finally – solve solve solve

Praised the Lord of seven-elevens
Of green amphetamine buzz, of
Holy cash machine
The clipped heart’s Incantation – Hail Mary

Unfurled dervish
Boys and girls, neon
Angels here

Cursed the dimming streetlamps
That herald dawn

Stiff neck and ache

Ch ri st i ne No 23

A Nameless Saint
Ascends a staircase

A body descends
Come morning

Plead Sanctuary

Close the blinds, pray
here to wound, to marrow
sucked dry. To broken glass Your Neon Angels, gone -

Come down alone Cold inheritance
Make parable of your suffering:

Remember: Sainthood begins
And Sainthood ends —

Not sure: How it feels

Mea Culpa: The body’s wreckage


I remember nothing, dead body 
Girl afloat in the thick, and
Vicious: so viscous
So well preserved 

I can see you, ancient mariner
Examining my skin
My bones, my mid and
Cross - section

Smoothed, belly-wide
Mouth to tail

Notice how the human body
Is a vessel of compartments
Valves and pumps, such capacity
At rest now – waterlogged

Eyes blinking
Fish belly up, wrinkle free how
Obscene this must all seem, my naked
My stubborn lack of transparency

I couldn’t tell you if I wanted

Ch ri st i ne No 25
I told you I remember nothing

Spin me around, count the ways in
There are many: garish and pink like
Arrows pointing here
And here
And here, too

Take your gander, examine
Like specimen, like salt pillar
Like vision:

I am The Girl Preserved

Eyes open, bright and hopeful
Such detail work, her gaze
Almost loving

Admire my craftsmanship

I see you
See right through—

(for my mother)

Mother named me Soon— Night
Obedient daughter, good Torn open,
Faithful dog, soft Unholy Spine
My father’s humid Gloves
Lap Tongued
Meat from
Did not speak Nail
Did not mouth
Dead thing Swallowed
Alone, Prayed
Jaw Exhumed
Gnawed each piece My Red
Crowned Myself Name

Sunrise Bone
Buried Adorned
Prayed Rubied

Ch ri st i ne No 27
String My Red
Globule As They:
Dinner, Daughter
My Red Name Father, Viscous
Enrages Mother, Master
My mother
Soon, Sun
My Red Name
Refuses Soon, Gone
My Father

My Red Name

My Red Name


Prayed pink



A whole year gone, already —

On the anniversary of the death of us, I crushed myself
like a pill bug: laughable armor but brave, still

And slept forever, or wished I did, the dog curled,
my small concavity.

The sun is out now; they say

Spring is here. And I was born two days ago. For the first
felt reason to unfurl. Imagine that: my body a

Hasty: an acceptance

The days grow long. And I was born two days ago; lighter
practically afloat. Winter shed. Watershed. 

Ache and bone extracted you

Today is Monday. And I was born two days ago.
I feel I should apologize but

What for?

Ch ri st i ne No 29
After great pain, a formal feeling comes
–Emily Dickinson

Mourning’s rules:
Love & minor chords
Sound either/or

Everything / nothing ebbs
Floods / you cling to
Eddy / stand at the edge let
Either / or pelt you until you feel
Either / or will do when desperate

Come over
Bring cigarettes
Sing to me / we are allowed our distractions

The vibrato in your chest / your bravado
Your stomach, my cheek: the rise and fall
Wall of water—

What it sounds like inside your body:
Television in another room
Distant traffic, motor whirr
You all hum and murmur

This world feels
Nothing meant
Understood / Believed

Ch ri st i ne No 31


If I ever receive a letter from my younger self, asking
what is it like to be older now? I’d write back—
Two words. More pills.

Why are so many bad decisions, pleasurable.
Who is there to blame for these things? Aren’t we
to learn from mistake? Who would set up this binary
of reward and punishment only to throw in
a whole bunch of immediate rewards that become
punishments in later life? Is someone fucking with us?

Sometimes I don’t know what body I’m in anymore.
As if someone switched things out when I wasn’t

I’m trying to figure out how to mark the years—
by the shape of my body, my great loves
or my great barbers, my clothes, the tattoos, poems,

all these departures we make
to our former selves? Always feeling
like I’m having to grieve for someone
who gets left behind.

Maybe to be born away from your homeland
is to carry a sense of loss you’ll be struggling
to understand your whole life. How many different
types there are to be born into.

I’ve been to the pharmacist four times this month
and I’m always feeling like I have to explain myself.
Maybe a quick, “Just trying to get healthy man”
or “I’ve had insurance for two years and only used it
one day I said to myself, I’m going to see all the

The last time I went in, I am handed the bottle
of antidepressants I promised a former love
I’d look into, years ago. I accept
many things about who I am.

That there is a sadness in my body. That I got to push
a little harder to get shit done. That I spend more
hidden because every bit of self care is erased
when I become visible and brown in the world.

At what point does acceptance save me? At what
will it only hurt me even more? A person
can’t keep submitting to the conditions they’re living
if those conditions continue to hurt them. That’s

I question what kind of person I’ve become in this
How much I’m willing to accept because I don’t
we’ll ever be able to win. But everything outside the
is louder than it was the day before. And has grown
louder, since.

This morning my homie tells me maybe it isn’t loss
that I’m born into but possibility. Always on the
of arrival. An iteration of “what if”.

Maybe it’s both. Maybe that corny ass meme got it
The moment you are lost is the moment you arrive. It
is possible
I can hold all these things at the same time.
All of the grief and possibilities.

And, as he tells me, if that condition isn’t Filipino,
I don’t know what is.

The first day I’m on antidepressants I wept in my
after popping that first pill. I thought it was because
I was ashamed, but it wasn’t that. I could see
that away is what I’ve grown used to becoming.
But in the distance I could see it. I could see the way

Jason Bayani 35

How little there is to know of the body, that we
would emerge
from the water, never a complete new—there, inside

a facsimile of older grief.

They say that the body inherits memory. Maybe
it is just the newer pain that learns to understand us
through us. Trauma as a wire through the

“We are not alone in this”, I repeat
then inhale. Each flush of air
sketching in my mind all the parts of me
that will remain hidden. “We are not
alone in this.” I need to tell myself
that this, too, is a practice in faith.

On the day the coroner will hold
my dead heart in his hands. What will we call it?
Out-of-commission parts? A collapsed engine?

What becomes of the well of ideas, the great
imagination, every bit of touch that ignites

and remains, still? Where does this go?

I want to believe that joy is inherited, too. Wouldn’t
they want
us to have this, as well? Doesn’t everyone you love
deserve the entirety of you. Some day I’m gonna get
from here. Some day you will. I grieve for you,

But I believe that grief is an honest gift. It is how you
to hold the whole of a person. So much of sadness is
inside of the absences.

There is nothing missing when it comes to any of you.
It is your fullness that overwhelms me. The rich and
life of a person, all of its requisite pleasure and

Maybe there is a way to learn to live with this.
Maybe we’ll make
the place that has learned to love us and our pain
in equal measures. If there is a greater joy, I must
it is one as equal to the weight of our living.

Jason Bayani 37

Nobody told me it snows in Germany during Winter. I
brought all the wrong shoes, must have slipped the ice
seven times before eating it in the Botanical garden.
There are several ways to get “got” in a city. The prime
offense is to always be looking up. I couldn’t help it
though. I’ve never seen the street break form like this.
Munich is so gutteral and heavy on the tongue. The
buildings are an impractical math. I am relearning
shape. The city where I love is a grid, a digital timepiece:
bending and folding: in and out of space. Here the
streets are series of gears; the metal and the motor; all
of it turning; the great wheel of time; it is breaking me;
I am broken; I came here broken. I can say that now.
There is enough time.

Today, being around people who speak a different
language than me feels like less pressure. Bitte, bitte
means please, but sounds so much like bitter. Kein,
under my breath I repeat the word kein: I have no, I
speak no, I am without.

A poet told me she wouldn’t be able to translate one of
the lines from my poem: “I love you in this city”, and
make it sound right. She said it wouldn’t sound sincere.

I didn’t tell her, the person I wrote it for didn’t think
so either. I would have tried to make it sound like a
joke. She wasn’t getting my jokes. Instead she wrote
one of my other lines on the wall: What else would it
mean to be human if not a lost thing. I could have fell
for her but I didn’t. Maybe when we say love, we mean
a safe place to fall apart.

I feel like Richie did that first night we took acid.
Around 5am he said, “When is this shit gonna be over?”
I’m listening to Junior tell me the same thing he told
him “Later.”

You know how at some point, some asshole always ends
up asking you the question, “If you were a superhero,
what power would you have.” I hate that question.
There’s a superhero who talks to cities, but you don’t
want to have to explain who Jack Hawksmoor (God
of the Cities) is. So you say what everyone else would
say, I’d fly. I wish that maybe someone would say, I
would spit medicine into my palms. Or, I get stronger
whenever I experience grief or loss and the more grief
or loss I experience, the stronger I get. Don’t make me
sad. You wouldn’t like me sad. Then maybe talking to
cities wouldn’t be such an outlying notion. Even today,
in a place as cold and unfamiliar as Munich is this

If I were a superhero I would talk to cities. Maybe to
hear it say five more minutes, come back to bed. Some
feral hound nuzzling its way between us. I think of all

Jason Bayani 39
the parts of me I am losing. How none of it makes me
stronger, just different. I wonder if I’ll ever be myself
again. And if not, why would that be such a bad thing.

Munich, I am without. When I slipped the ice nobody
laughed. I’ll get you for this, but you got me. You got
me son.


Last night I texted four men:
two of them ex’s,
one of them married.
One of the four informed me
we share a moon-in-Gemini,

whatevs I said…

This would explain many things he said…

I was only texting to ask about his favorite sex club.

I looked it up; Google says we share a rapid speed of
thought, vanity, a desire to make many things all
at once.

Our emotions are very changeable it says.

I say the only sin is doing a thing that you know is

Sexting with married men may or may not be
a thing that is wrong.

Restless is what it says about us.

I believe in Happy Endings, not in fairy tales
or relationships but in massage parlors.

Doesn’t monogamy sounds like monotony?

We struggle to maintain our independence.
Our feelings are held in too much scrutiny.
A direct need to speak the truth.

Tonight on stage
I will spill secrets down my shirt,
purple like wine
I will kiss and tell.
I will call it poetry.

Springs are scarred into my fallopian tubes.
tiny fruitless trees prevent the eggs
falling failing little Pac Man.

I almost married one of the four.
He was a teacher.
He taught me to run.
He was the moon-in-Gemini Cancer.
Cancer is what it felt like most.

A cancer that picked my bones
left me starving,
a beautiful carcass I was.

They never stop, it says
reading, thinking, talking,
they never stop….

They often come off as fickle,
that’s what it says about us
I text the teacher.

Cassandra Da lle t t 43

I think of Dwayne Reed, write list poems of lovers-
lovers as in people I hooked up with lovers who never
said make love
but were tortured like the love songs we listened to.
Between us color lines, my being underage, and our
But when the lights went down there was only his
His weedy brown lips, lean chocolate frame,
He was scary quick to slap.
Although he never did, I knew he was a trigger
without warning.
That was as close as I have been to love
sleeping with someone so dangerous.
It makes you want the meat of them,
crawl the floor bare-ass and beg for it
whisper Daddy while straddling his bucking frame.

These are the men whose perfection graced auction
the white world still trying to own it, cage it,
while milking it for inspiration
so caught up in the mythology of pimps and blues

the mystery behind dark eyes.
Women like me want to be owned by it
feel safer with someone who isn’t afraid of us,
someone who gets our soft spots and that exteriors
are just that.
There are words and then there are hands
and sometimes it’s all too much.

Dwayne lived on the brink
finally fell in
to insanity
to the nut house
Oh but Dwayne
you really turned me on.

Cassandra Da lle t t 45

I did not die
when Ant Wiley dragged me up the stone wall
dangling over the bay

Police lights bathed me
in relief of his relentless
fists and feet

I was not shot by cops
when guns were pointed
at my head

I did hide in my room
a lot
still do, huddled here now

With the twitching dog, the computer,
and my stomach ache

I’m lonely
and I want to eat Xanax
and cereal

Never overdosed
but wanted out
many times

Never cut
having too many scars

Begged to have my hair pulled
my face smashed into the head board
that escape is short lived

I went to the movies tonight
with a guy from a bar
just to do it. just because I’m lonely
or something

His desperation
was rubbing on me, giving me

He wanted to show me off
he wanted to take me to the mall, to eat,
to his bar

I wanted to get out
couldn’t get home fast enough
all that need reminded me
of my own

Cassandra Da lle t t 47
How it feels to really like someone
and how these months I relearned what it’s like
to like no one

to look into the future
and see nothing
like I did

Back when guys like Ant Wiley
beat the shit out of me
and I still wanted a boyfriend

To pick me up after work
eat chicken fried steak at Denny’s
drink gin and juice in the car
with someone

Cause he made me laugh
and got that look in his eye when he came
that glazed dazed look that made me feel
some kind of way

Numb like this, I miss feeling
some kind of way

Actually it was the worst reminder
that I have not grown up
at all

That I will obsessively text

where I once

That I will sit in my room
and cry for a very long time
broken and looping
no power button shut off

love lives only in pages and songs
so I’m thinking about buying cassettes tapes again
stacking them high with the books on the shelves
surrounding me, and the shivering dog
late into the cold night

There is moon
and there is me
I did not die.

Cassandra Da lle t t 49

It’s in your chest full of bass
I read poems about beat to white folks.
That prolly never rode in a scraper hittin’ corners.
The speakers shaking your insides
shape shifting your very cells.
Every seven years I’m on a mission
still thirsting dream.
I been settled down with my heart-of-gold-thug
threw it all off in search of sex and intellect.
If only there was balance
but we tip our own Libra scale.
Dating reality is like eating
you’ve got to take small plates
of the things appetizing to you.
Some nights its big dicks only
on others all bets off.
Good conversation is the slipperiest thing.
Wet panties and music you know that shit in your
I’m not above it, can’t outgrow wanting
to chop it up all night about rappers, the best R & B
and favorite movies of childhood
when gangsters were just kids

wearing slippers from Chinatown
to see Bruce Lee.
It’s not the inevitable gentrification we are running
the Salt ‘n Peppa on insurance commercials
It’s insanity madness creeping up the back of our
The Big Take Over yeah
our Bad Brains overwhelmed with anger just wanting
but they don’t write those songs no’ mo’.
I swear if one more sweetheart-of-a-brotha’ tells me
how exhausted his cheeks are
from smiling at white people
so they wont think he’s so scary.
Once you know certain things
you can’t put them back in the closet
of your white mind.
I just can’t do this thing
but I thought it would be less racist
to at least try dating a white guy
less objectifying but so much more fake.
I can’t protect yo neck from the sidelines
all I can do is cheer. I’m listening
and smiling so hard my cheeks hurt with you.
I tell you fuck ‘em if they’re scared.
But I’m not the one getting hauled off to the joint.
I heard Angela’s warnings.
Whatever I say in court no matter how crazy
will still sound more innocent than you.
And I can’t explain this to one white boy

Cassandra Da lle t t 51
busy playing victim in the post racial beat down.
Having a black president
sure has brought the Klan out of the woodpile
or was it just the internet
that gave them all the balls.


and I’m born.
All that Public Enemy-
I was raised on, Paris, and KRS,
finding revolution between lines in Short and 40.
I watched the whole movie last night with no joy.
Recognized the OG, dated a hundred of him-
cold blooded to everyone but his Moms.
It was too late for her-
room crowded with meds, mismatched afghans,
dirty walled Victorian.
We all bitches-n-hoes till death bed.
I can sing you all the lyrics-
all the shit dudes rapped they never would-
do for us.
pussy-money-weed prayer.
Isn’t it all strip-club-church
Chris Rock blamed the misogyny on crack.
He wasn’t all the way wrong-
so, we back it up, flip it, rub it down
our asses so full of love and anger-
we fuck with a vengeance.
Search the tender part, near iris.
Pillow talk dumb shit
you search for a nugget to love.

Cassandra Da lle t t 53
I loved a thug once,
because he was the only person I ever knew
who spoke in metaphor.
Sometimes you got to ask yourself,
is this dick worth this conversation?
Young MA wonders why the whole world
wants to see her strap
and you think about it,
while he fucks you.
You’re never present.
These times tumultuous
as when I birthed, Nixon Moonwalk
Whitey on The Moon
They killed Fred dead.
We still war, we still march,
I need a gun -a survival plan.
There is a big dick in office
with a little dictator complex.
The oligarchs are coming-
shore up your scarcity walls
that’s that bitches’ n hoes mode.
So bendable and expendable
makes pulling the trigger easy
me or him, me or her-me.
The future doesn’t look like we thought it would-
a kid called thug wearing a dress made of Prince’s
small liberties slipping through fingers
unable to pull the breaks.
We roll back.
The only one who gets me-

is an OG on Telegraph outside the liquor store.
He looks me up and down,
says, Hey you remember Blondie?
filling my heart of glass like a fish tank in Vegas
Amazon is the monkey on my back.
Assorted cardboard boxes come-
filled with bags of air
Pal is my Pay.
Maybe I just be buying
random time
and things to fill it with.

Cassandra Da lle t t 55

What is there to write
when summer has turned cold
the sky pressing gloomily down
Tiki torch lynch mobs
plan rallies near you
a thousand posts
on what you should do, can do,
won’t do
guts knotted and afraid to leave the bathroom
this is no surprise
just a campaign promise
the unveiling
of the pale sick country
we belong to
now you know
the white kid handing you a hot dog
an aspiring Klans-man,
oh you’ve known some
skinheads, and white boys
who joined the Brotherhood behind bars
can wish them nothing
but boots upside the head
you’ve heard the ridiculous
freedom of speech arguments
typed madly to the Alt Right abyss
too many masters

stirring up fear and paranoia
Othering Othering Othering
we should all be
terrified of the terrorists among us
white dudes talking take back
shit that was stolen in the first place
we all pointing fingers and wringing hands
it’s here
the year they promised
at all those rallies
all the red hats
telling you it was this
birther bullshit
go back to Africa
calling slaves migrants
migrants criminal
vegetables rotting on the vine
stop the rewriting
the propaganda
fueling painful flames
stop protesting Top Dog
and listen to your God
or your Dog
my God,
we might be busy killing each other
when they drop the bomb
My Dog,
hand me my machete
these white boys might be the zombie apocalypse
we’ve been preparing for all along.

Cassandra Da lle t t 57

Blanket the streets with plum blossoms.
Rest body against warm concrete.
Find rose petals on sidewalk.
Glimmer of the memory garden.


Follow the trail of invisible bees.
Nectar guides for the lost ones.
Fling lasso into summer darkness.
Hear whistles and megaphone.


Hold body close to body.
Breathe in the greenhouse.
Wear wet glitter and silver hose.
Lick salt on skin.


Catch whispers in libraries.
Greet strangers with acorns and grapefruit.
Remember eyes, ghosts, smoke.
Watch brothers as they disappear.


Imagine a new world.
Keep sisters close.

I said rock what’s a matter with you rock?

-nina simone
from “Sinnerman”

Spend summer
in makeshift tree.

Stand on all legs.
Listen to Nina

as the fires begin.

Maw Sh e i n Wi n 61

I am the lonely king.
Ruler of all, both sick and sweet.
I sit on my throne alone, woven
branch and leaf.

Cloak of spikes
and thorns prevent touch.
Hard husk, I trust
no one.

Should I crack open
upon fall or wall, a scent
so foul and rank. Tremble
and crawl. Tremble and crawl.


My flesh appealed to you
that fall. We fell for each
other, flush peach

Though my taste to your
tongue was bitter, you remembered
my juice and we rejoiced in sweet fiction.

Maw Sh e i n Wi n 63

Stranded in an airport bar, vodka with lime, missed
Thoughts of my unwashed hair, knee pain, my love at
home reading a book.

That day. Feeling as if my body could levitate from
the office chair
as I sat and marked essays.

Overly heated building. Remnants of paper cathe-
drals on the bookshelf.
Tiny limes rolling off a truck on the freeway.

Sound of rolling suitcases down the aisles, hearts
beating fast.
Looking at clocks and clerks, and finally the flat
spaces below through the window. Jets’ wings cut
through trails of cloud.

As a child, I’d watch my father cut limes for his
He would quickly squeeze slice of lime in tall glass.
Then toss the ends in sink. Steadying himself on
the counter with his thin hands, dry and dark.

As a teenager, I’d drink with Lisa and Bob, lime and
lemon liqueurs swiped from parents’ cabinets.
Our drunkenness in the cold night behind
church down the street. Elvis Costello songs on
cassette player.

I would cry in my room when I came home after
I feared the future might not be what I imagined.

Maw Sh e i n Wi n 65

When you’re no longer a baby, after you start wearing
grownup clothes and big person shoes, after you
outgrow the safety seat and you start driving your
mom around instead, you ask, “why can’t I be a baby?
I’d be a very good baby. This time I’d get it right, being
a baby.” You drive past the Toys r Us, you drive past
the great fountain of money and you drive around the
mortuary, no matter how good you’ve been you’re not
getting anything your mom tells you from the backseat,
because you’re a grownup now. Grownups never get
anything just because they’ve been good. “Beg all you
want,” she says. “I’m never giving you your soft spot


1. When I was a teenager my hair was a forest. I
stretched for miles, and I could hardly go anywhere
because someone was always tugging, or tying me up
around trees or family or telephone poles. I tore so
much of it out, thinking if it was so endless I could get
away with wasting it. If I had lovers I’d let them braid
me, but I didn’t so I stayed wild, and wore it loose with
bangs that hid me about as well as I could hide my
feelings. When I was a teenager everyone wore their
hair like that. No one was going anywhere and if they
had lovers they treated them awkwardly. I wasn’t good
at getting out of my body, even when I shaved all of
it off.

2. My counselor refused to let me drop biology class,
no matter how often I told her I hated it. You need to
get used to bodies she said. I know you don’t want to
but you do. So I signed up for theatre classes. What I
loved best about them was the warm up exercises. I
loved tensing and relaxing the different parts of me,
rolling my shoulders, becoming rubbery. We’d sit in the
darkened auditorium while the teacher taught us how
to cry. We sat there with our eyes closed, thinking our
saddest thoughts, but I just couldn’t. All I felt were my
shoulders cramping, as if I’d been carrying something
so heavy I’d never be allowed to know what it was.

3. When I turned into a teenager, one of the things I
grew to hate were chin-ups. To hang off a bar and yank
my body up, over and over, only to fall back down
again mindlessly; there were just so many better things
I could do with my wrists. The gym coach would lash
out at me and my laziness. What if, he said, there was
a terrible accident, and you were dangling from a cliff,
and the only thing saving you from certain death was
the strength of your wrists, would you not at that
moment regret blowing off all those chin-ups in gym
class? Fuck no, I’d say. I have a backup plan. Why do
you think I’ve been masturbating so furiously all these

Hu gh Be h m- St e i nbe rg 69

1. My kisses are so sweet you have to bolus for me
every time and I’m such a sloppy kisser, my beard
tickles your face. So I’m such a delicate kisser you
say come on baby don’t hold back. I’m such a serious
kisser, my kisses solve all sorts of problems, but I’m
such a playful kisser I get in trouble too. I’m such a
natural kisser you’d never know I spent thirty years
in graduate school. I’m such a great kisser all those
academic kissers should just go back to using their
mouths for dissertations. I’m such a sly kisser we’ve
been lovers for decades and your mother thinks we’re
just friends.

2. There are two kinds of kissers. There’s the polite
little peckers, the kind of people who only open their
mouths to eat and talk and yawn, otherwise they’re
more concerned with gesture, the symbol instead of
the thing itself. They struggle with their kisses and
they always win. Weak huggers, you have to do all the
work and they come to resent it when you do. They
kiss like they’re doing you a favor. They kiss like they
care more about preventing the passage of germs. They
kiss like they’re gargling something more important
than you. I’m not one of those. Hugh Behm-Steinberg
is a tongue man.


The literature of sleep splits between those who say
it’s about escape, you fall asleep

and in your dreams you hang out with curlews on
Candlestick Point, before the stadium was built,

before the last flocks were shot down by hunters, you
dream you’re wading through abundance

and it worries you, because in your dreams wealth is
only there to be lost, wrecked or stolen;

you think the birds are oblivious, you keep trying to
save them: one school says of

course this keeps happening, you are asleep, so this is
about death, it sucks,

what sport is there to shooting long-billed curlews
that hunters would climb into your dreams

to wipe out even the imaginary ones?

The breakdown is unpredictable so it’s hard to be
trusting. Your habits are indefinite one curlew says,

Hu gh Be h m- St e i nbe rg 71
so it’s hard to maintain control. You’re asleep and
erotic as you’re embodied; one school says we fall
asleep to practice surrender,

but I’m more hopeful than that. Barnaby claims the
group he saw seemed preoccupied

with stalking clumsily through the muck after small
fish or grubs, but I think there’s nothing

that’s clumsy; it’s an observational problem: you are
not a curlew, you cannot tell if they’re

being clumsy or careful, but Barnaby I’m asleep right
now, or writing this poem, which is the same thing,

which means I know, and now you know I know, you
already knew, like the long-billed curlew

telling my wife when we sleep we’re writing creation’s
book, and in it we’re ok, we’re going to be ok.

- september 9, 2017 -