Part 1 Contributors


Rae Armantrout
Bart Edelman
David Garyan
Suzanne Lummis
Glenna Luschei
Bill Mohr
D. A. Powell
Amy Uyematsu
Paul Vangelisti
Charles Harper Webb
Bruce Willard
Gail Wronsky

Part 2 Contributors

Elena Karina Byrne
liz gonzález
Grant Hier
Lois P. Jones
Ron Koertge
Glenna Luschei
Rooja Mohassessy
Susan Rogers
Patty Seyburn
Maw Shein Win
Kim Shuck
Lynne Thompson
Carine Topal
Cecilia Woloch

Part 3 Contributors

Michelle Bitting
Laurel Ann Bogen
Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Lucille Lang Day
Corrinne Clegg Hales
Marsha De La O
Charles Jensen
Eloise Klein Healy
Glenna Luschei
Clint Margrave
Henry Morro
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Phil Taggart
David L. Ulin
Jonathan Yungkans
Lorene Zarou-Zouzounis

Part 4 Contributors

Tony Barnstone
Willis Barnstone
Ellen Bass
Christopher Buckley
Neeli Cherkovski
Boris Dralyuk
Alicia Elkort
Mary Fitzpatrick
Michael C. Ford
Kate Gale
Frank X. Gaspar
Dana Gioia
Shotsie Gorman
S.A. Griffin
Donna Hilbert
Brenda Hillman
Glenna Luschei
Phoebe MacAdams
devorah major
Clive Matson
K. Silem Mohammad
Rusty Morrison
Harry Northup
Holly Prado Northup - In Memoriam
Cathie Sandstrom
Shelley Scott - In Memoriam
Daniel Shapiro
Mike Sonksen
Pam Ward
Sholeh Wolpe
Gary Young
Mariano Zaro

Part 5 Contributors

Millicent Borges Accardi
Kim Addonizio
Marjorie R. Becker
Jacqueline Berger
John Brandi
James Cagney
Carol Moldaw
Kosrof Chantikian
Brendan Constantine
James Cushing
Kim Dower
David Garyan
Valentina Gnup
Troy Jollimore
Judy Juanita
Paul Lieber
Rick Lupert
Glenna Luschei
Sarah Maclay
Jim Natal
Judy Pacht
Connie Post
Jeremy Radin
Luis J. Rodriguez
Gary Soto
Cole Swensen
Arthur Sze
Charles Upton
Scott Wannberg (In Memoriam)

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Click to enlarge picture Charles Harper Webb
Charles Harper Webb
Californian Poets Part 1: Five Poems
Charles Harper Webb



Good with Balloons

Those wiener dogs kids love?— my buddy Ted
can twist a snarling pack, eager to gut any wacko
belting up to bomb a school. Need a teddy bear,

spider, giraffe, working mule? Ted’s your man.
He can blow swords for an army. Light-sabers, too.
Down on your luck? He’ll build, under your overpass,

a palace of balloons, and stuff it with air-filled
artifacts better than anything from Greece,
where balloon-shaping is deader than Hector.

Crave your own Pieta? Just say the word.
If you’re hungry, Ted can make, out of flavored,
cell-sized balloons, a steak dinner with all

the fixin’s. Iron-lunged Creator, he would never
plop a couple into Eden, then drop-kick them out.
He’d never populate the earth with balloon-

people, then send a rain of pins. He’s more
of a balloon Jesus. Kind, I mean. Except
to creeps, crooks, crap-heads. Pilates of the world,

open your eyes! Mockers, scourgers, con-men,
thugs, duly-elected hagfish and lampreys—for you,
Ted’s got a big balloon surprise.

Old Love Letters Become Space Junk

Gaze at the sky just right,
           a pulse of love may strike
your heart, and you’ll be kind
           to everyone you meet that day.

Let the same letter pulse two hearts,
           and they will find each other,
no matter what scoffers say, or how far
           apart they are in place or age.

So many letters pine in trunks,
           boxes, and drawers, hidden there
by those who couldn’t bear
           to let them go. Thrown—

as they all are, finally—away,
           they hover, clear as air
over nursing homes
           and graves, making a high

hum only hearts can hear.
           The ones that pause, like a last
glance, above a marriage bed
           may cause disturbing

dreams. But like the ghosts
           they’re frequently mistaken
for, all rise at last
           to join the orbiting.

When He Grows Up

My son is either going to write great symphonies,
or headline in Vegas, burping his ABCs.

He’ll conjure life by crushing green berries
with red ones, then adding Elmer’s glue, chalk-

dust, balsamic vinegar, and cornflakes,
or he’ll learn to pee calligraphy. He’ll either lift

Amazing Kong by the chin for a choke-slam,
followed by his “finisher,” the Tombstone Drop,

or invent the stink-bug Slurpie. He’ll score
a hundred runs in one World Series by running so fast

no one can tell his “team” is just one boy,
or he’ll out-paint the Lascaux Masters by blowing

colored Kool-Aid out his nose. Already
his laugh, when he won’t get up for school,

makes orchids coalesce from cold October air.
Tree-ferns of eye-stabbing green shrug off

the clinging dark to please him. Small, feathered
dinosaurs begin to sing as, from behind earth’s

flowered skirts, the gold balloon that he inflates
daily, just by breathing, springs.

Polar Air Invades LA
—The Six O’Clock News

“Does it come from the North Pole?”
my son wants to know. It’s thirty-two
days till Christmas: thirty-one
till Santa’s ride. If air can’t make
the trek, how will a fat man in the sky?

Our furnace, rumbling on at midnight,
shakes our house like an earthquake
eager to shove us out into the dark
and chill. When my wife whispers,
“I’m cold,” I’m glad to warm her,

my stomach stuffed with Thanksgiving
while, outside, the atmosphere
fights for equilibrium like kids
trying to split a chocolate shake:
“No! You got more! It isn’t fair!”

Clouds hurl orange spears across the sky
and fire fusillades of hail into our roof
while Polar air pours in like Europeans
to America. “Over our dead bodies,”
the natives raged. And so it proved.


How did I exist without these poems,
my polioed soul strapped to a crack-axled
wheelchair that lacked a ramp to lift it up
life’s curb onto the Glad Highway?

My highest aim, before these poems,
was to upgrade life’s Portacan to a cesspool.
My soul floated, formless, in fetid night;
these poems proclaimed, “Let there be light.”

They beat swords into spatulas; H-bombs
into scrambled eggs. They’ve quadrupled
the blood supply by squeezing stones.
Turnips are next. They stop pain, kill Death,

ward off asteroids, flush away unsightly
belly fat even as they undo global warming,
lift your kids’ grades, snag you a raise,
and answer the phone when you’re on the pot.

You know that drip that you can’t stop—
the way your garden hose buckles in one spot—
the driveway crack that could gape
into a sink-hole—the cam-shaft ping your dealer

calls nothing and won’t fix, lemon-laws
be damned—the Ben Franklins you’d shower
on the poor, if your trees could only grow ’em?
Call these poems!