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)

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

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Click to enlarge picture Jacqueline Berger
Jacqueline Berger
Californian Poets Part 5: Five Poems
Jacqueline Berger



Left at the Ruin

Smashed apricots on the stone road,
a few still on the branches, bright.
I am writing to remember
how to get back to my hotel
through the maze of streets.
Walking slowing, stopping often
to record in a little notebook
another landmark.

This coming to yourself,
what is it?

Poetry final, two hours,
our teacher only half joking.
Forty years ago
and I still don’t know how to answer.
Pay attention
is as close as I get.

Scent is a shifting marker—
frying onion and aubergine—
and sound, the dishes and silver
of the breakfast table,
a woman’s voice, and a cry,
child or cat? Town of strays
sleeping in the shade.

How often must I pass
before the mind claims what the eye
must surely each time see?
Pink elephant on the poster,
martini in its trunk.
Then the ubiquitous cock and balls,
purple, on a passage wall, thank you
boy balancing power and fear
for the marker.
And the young woman in the dress shop,
bored, waiting it seems
for her life to begin.
And old women, bowlegged, in black.
The shuffle of their slippers on stone.
These vertical streets.

A final is never final.
I am still afraid of myself
though less so.

Now I have almost made it back.
Left at the ruin,
its open wound of plaster and rust,
then right at the hotel’s old gate,
open, looking as though
it hasn’t shut in years.

Ode on a Dressing Room in Rome

Literary angel whose epitaph
was writ in water,
tomorrow we’ll climb the stairs,
tour your last abode,
the narrow bed, the ceiling
painted blue so you lay
on a hillside looking at sky
as death lowered, or lifted,
but tonight, O deep awkward
in the dress shop, too late
to leave—yesterday’s nice sales girl,
she helped me imagine myself
in swirling patterns of ocean and sky,
replaced by the owner
quickly assessing
size and fit, his friends
keeping him company until closing.
Already he’s pulling back the curtain,
guiding me into the changing room.
I strip and slip into a dress
that’s going to be snug,
it’s made to show,
the blue one with the bow,
the sea-green with a décolletage
another woman would wear
with pleasure, with whimsy—
what my husband says I lack,
that’s him, off to the side,
worried, he’s seen before
my going through while gone.
I change into, out of,
see myself in the mirror one way
then another, step into the room.
The owner and his friends
look, look away, continue
talking in a language I don’t know.
Shame, thou hast thy music too.

State U

One classmate, old,
thirty or twenty-seven,
had been to war.
The war was over—intermission
between this war and the next.
The teacher asked him
for his sources but he didn’t know
there were stairs,
that the library started
on the second floor. He’d wandered
the lobby level, couldn’t understand
where the books were.
What a thing to admit. Now
he is starting to cry.
The war still ringing in his ears
and exploding behind his eyes.

Soldier, let me say
though I do not know
if you are still alive, that I love you.
Love the wet flag of your shame
spread before us, flag you did not
want to spread but could not hide.
You stayed with
though I do not remember
if you finished the semester.
Without permission I have used you,
many times, to stand closer to myself.
Thank you for this.


Finally, I believe I will die,
an inner shift that arrives a little
like the smell of eucalyptus burning,
a medicine-cabinet smell,
or is it more the sour of old ice
from the encrusted freezer’s
snow cove—remember
bowls of hot water to melt the walls?
Or pine resin, tar water,
turpentine, the coffee tins
we cleaned our brushes in,
after-school oil painting,
the little studio off Pico,
every Wednesday for years,
the rag dipped then rubbed on hands
to remove cadmium or cobalt
from the stand of trees
I’d rendered valiantly
if naively all afternoon.

The feeling of will-be-over
is something I think I can use.
I am grateful for nothing,
what I know of it,
having practiced not existing
under anesthesia’s full gone,
no shimmer, no movement
or memory, and grateful too
for the seconds, here and there,
when I feel life itself
unspooling in me, and around me,
and without.


Write down every thought
as it arises, develops, passes
its baton to the next—
without fabrication or hypocrisy,
for three days after which—Freud
quoting a minor German Romantic—
you will be a writer.
Does the pencil change
the nature of the mind’s meandering,
forcing focus, fabricating?
Capture the calculus of association,
follow the flaneur,
enter the art house
or Cineplex of the mind—
if auteur then brooding,
believe you are finally
admitting what’s true,
if big budget then garish emotionality’s
grand explosions,
bodies summersaulting through air.
Include the hours
when the inner talker
is a bureaucrat at a metal desk
tallying the petty complaints of a day.
Slowly steer your ship
out of the harbor of regret.
Notice how often you repeat yourself.