Alan Berecka was the Poet Laureate of Corpus Christi from February 2017 - February 2019. His latest collection, The Hamlet of Stittville, is a collaboration with the New Yorker cartoonist and boyhood friend John Klossner. Berecka earns his keep as a reference librarian at Del Mar College. His work has appeared in such publications as Red River Review, Texas Review, The Christian Century, Windhover, Ruminate, St. Peter’s B-List and Oklahoma Poems…And Their Poets.
My friend Pete Merkl’s dad sold copiers.
A salesman’s salesman, the old man’s smile
could turn any stranger into a friend.
His patter was so smooth he could smooze
a Temperance Leaguer into a booze
of the month subscription. I asked
him once why he plied his trade
selling inferior products. He told me,
“Alan, a Xerox can sell itself, but it takes
a real pro to sell an A B Dick copier.”
read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
How far can a fog lift
before it becomes a cloud?
Whatever it was, it hung
above the causeway,
a few feet above each car
and truck, as we drove
over the shallow end
of the Gulf, consumed
with the needs
of our daily commute.
I noticed how the gulls
and pelicans disappeared
diving up into the thickness
but thought little of it, until
I rounded the long curve
near the final exit,
and there it hung
like a shroud, completely
obscuring the upper two-thirds
of the Harbor Bridge.
While being pulled along
by the constant traffic,
I watched the countless
sets of tail lights
ascending into obscurity,
taking on faith that beyond
it still lies the bridge
into the city of Corpus Christi.
copyright Alan Berecka
Buy on Amazon. From the cover: Berecka's commedia is not so much divine as it is deeply human-a retrospective poetic, accompanied by a wince and a grin. Scott Cairns Author of Compass of Affection: Poems New & Selected Alan Berecka probes his blue collar roots with honesty and insight, depicting, with haunting detail and striking imagery, everything from family members who "smell of cabbage and onions" to the love "that pins us down." Ranging in tone from the elegiac to the hilarious, these impressive poems shimmer with craftsmanship, the work of a poet who takes his art seriously, who works the jagged stones of his poems until they sparkle on the page like faceted gems. Larry D. Thomas 2008 Texas Poet Laureate The hardest task of a serious writer is to be able to write funny, but Alan Berecka not only does this, he does it brilliantly. These are laugh-out-loud funny poems on child abuse and alcoholism, profanity and prayer, via some of the most unlikely subjects: the Pope's T-shirt, the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Carl Yastrezmski, Jiffy Pop popcorn, Playboy magazine. These poems will both break your heart and alter your vision; I guarantee you will never look at the world in quite the same way again. Barbara Crooker Author, Line Dance and Radiance Berecka embraces the "flaw" without a hint of resignation-never hesitating to administer the sacrament of laughter where others might erect a wall of ridicule. This collection is a Eucharist, beginning to end. Bread and wine have their place; but the sacramental elements might just as well be baseball, popcorn, t-shirts, a puzzled Pope responding to a phrasebook reference to lost luggage-or the poet's old man flipping a bird. He has an uncanny ability to sense the presence of God in such acts, and that is a welcome invitation to take our shoes off and get comfortable on this holy ground we share. Steven Schroeder Virtual Artists Collective
Buy The Hamlet of Stittville on Amazon. "There is much ado about monkey in Berecka and Klossner’s poignant and humorous search for meaning in The Hamlet of Stittsville. It’s monkeys all the way down, with Shakespearian commentary on current politicalevents mixed with the deep, personal observation we’ve come to expect in Berecka’s work. Klossner’s art offers both counterpoint and reflection in Berecka’s tongue-in-cheek universe. Together they pack a knock-out punch that will, for an infinite moment, take our minds off the baloney of our political present and give us the comical perspective necessary to enjoy our dawning days. L.A. Times Bestselling Author Stephen Jay Schwartz Alan Berecka starts with a wily premise of infinite monkeys, infinite typewriters, and time. But the monkeys are us and time is running out as sad little monkeys continue to ring the bell, hoping for a banana. And we all know what the definition of insanity is..."
Allyson Chavez Larkin is a family physician specializing in wound care. She lives in Corpus Christi, Texas with her unfailingly patient husband, a Midwest transplant who still cannot get used to the heat, and three lovely children who are turning into amazing people right in front of her eyes. She reads and writes voraciously in her spare time. Middle grade and young adult fiction are her guilty pleasures.
Jesus Lopez mows his own lawn. So do I of course. So do most of us; but Mr. Lopez is paraplegic.
Twenty-five years ago, a bullet lodged in Jesus Lopez’s back severing the neurologic connection between his spine and legs. Now no signal reaches the muscles below his waist. Paralysis and deformity ensued. His feet are contracted and twisted upside down so that they look like curved bowls -- no good for walking or even standing for that matter. So, Mr. Lopez mows his yard in his wheelchair.
Mr. Lopez’s home health nurse keeps calling me, complaining that his dressings are dirty or have fallen off when she goes out to care for him three times a week. She can’t figure out why. So this visit I’ve got to have a “heart to heart” with him about his role in the healing process.
“Mr. Lopez, you won’t heal unless you are compliant with our wound care plan. If your dressings are dirty or wet when the home nurse sees you, you will never heal.”
“Sorry Doctora.” That is what he calls me. “I think it might be the mowing. I’ll tie a grocery bag on my foot from now on to keep the bandage clean.”
“Mowing? How do you manage that?”
“I pull my chair right up next to the mower so I can pull the crank at the same time I squeeze the start paddle on the handle.”
“It’s a push mower?” I cannot believe what I am hearing.
“You bet, self-propelled. Once I get it started, the mowing is easy.”
I shake my head.
“I pull my chair up behind the mower and push it with my left hand. I drive the wheelchair with my right.”
“That doesn’t sound safe,” I say as I inspect the horseshoe-shaped ulcer on top of his right foot, which due to his contractures, is actually resting on the footplate of his wheelchair.
“I tie that belt around my legs to keep them from flopping if I hit a rut.” Mr. Lopez points to a frayed brown leather belt draped on the edge of his seat. A jagged tear in the cushion has been repaired with silver duct tape and a shopping bag chock full of gear -- a sack lunch, an umbrella, a blanket -- hangs off the handles. “I’ve never had a bit of trouble.”
The wound is pink and shallow. It looks like it should heal right up; but never does. It is maddening. “Dirt and debris getting into your dressing isn’t doing your foot much good either,” I say.
“I have to do it, Doctora. I have a big yard and if I don’t keep it cut, the city will fine me $75. I’m not made of money. ”
That’s true. He gets to my office by bus, but unlike a lot of my bus patients, he is never late. I should have Mr. Lopez give a class: “How to Master Public Transportation and Arrive On Time.” I didn’t even know he took the bus until one day I ran so late that I made him miss the last pick-up. He had to borrow the phone at the front desk to shift around for someone to pick him up.
“Jesus Lopez’s mother died,” my medical assistant warns me before I go in for our next visit.
“I'm so sorry, Mr. Lopez,” I say as I look at his foot.
“Thank you Doctora. I miss her. We were very close, but she was old. It was her time.”
“You lived with her?”
“Yes, just her and I. The house is very quiet now.”
“How are you managing? Have you had to move?”
“Doctora,” Mr. Lopez pauses waiting until I look up and give him my full attention. “My mother couldn’t get out of bed this last year. I managed to take care of her. I sure can take care of myself.”
I blush. This is the closest to an angry word I have ever had from Mr. Lopez, and I deserve every bit of it. I’ve been treating him for a year, but I don't understand a thing about his life.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean -- I just assumed.” I struggled for words. I did not want to offend this man, always so courteous and patient. “But how do you possibly manage? It’s not just your paralysis, but your feet. You can’t even -- ”
“Doctora. I got shot over twenty years ago -- and it was pretty much my own fault. For a few weeks I thought all about ‘I can’t.’ I couldn’t get out of my mind all the things I would never do. But then I decided, ‘Hey, I’m alive. The Lord is not done with me.’ So, every day I just do everything I can do.”
I am humbled and have no response.
“So I took care of my mother. I owed her that. She gave me life and I wasn’t gonna put her in a nursing home.”
“You’re like MacGyver,” I say.
“Oh Doctora,” Mr. Lopez laughs, “I love that show.”
I have an idea. “Do you think if I put home health on hold, you can figure out how to you reach down to your foot and dress the wound yourself everyday?”
“I’ll find a way if you tell me what I need to do.”
“Jesus Lopez is healed.” My medical assistant moon walks in the hall outside Mr. Lopez’s room at his follow up appointment two weeks later.
I walk into the room, hoping but not convinced. I shine the spotlight on his foot. Indeed there is a thin, translucent layer of pink tissue over the wound.
“Mr. Lopez, you are healed.” I can’t help but grin.
“I thought you’d like that, Doctora. Thank you for healing me.”
“Mr. Lopez, are you kidding? You did it. I’m just sorry I didn’t have you change your own dressings months ago.”
“That’s OK, Doctora. You always did your best. Sometimes it takes trying different things before you get them right.”
Copyright Allyson Chavez Larkin
Ana Varela lived in Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, and Taipei before moving to Corpus Christi. She has proudly worked at a domestic violence shelter, as a paralegal at a non-profit immigration law firm, and spends her free time finding volunteer families for international students. She is a freelance writer, cultural consultant, and host of the Corpus Culture Fest. Her work has been featured in anthologies, and she was a board member and panelist at the 2019 People’s Poetry Festival.
Pacing back in forth in the lobby of a women's shelter
she paused at the paperwork, looked at the baby and felt that no one could help her.
She lifted her daughter, flipped up her hoodie and walked back into the blur.
Pacing back and forth in the lobby of a women's shelter
she paused at the paperwork, paused at the baby and noticed the same day on the calendar.
She lifted that baby, and she put her back down and tried to remember where they were.
Pacing back and forth where they said that they can help her
she paused at the thermostat, thought about smoking crack
and wondered where she could get hers.
She flipped up her hoodie, flipped it back down-
She couldn't feel the right temperature.
Pacing back and forth, wondering about her worth
She looked past the paperwork, stared at the floor
and saw her crawling daughter.
She lifted that baby, walked back into the blur and felt that no one could help her.
The valley knew that it would change my life forever. The longer that I spent in it, the more sure I was of where I needed to be. Nothing could be the same after that summer in the desert.
I met Jay in the three days that I spent at the end of spring in the Joshua Tree dessert. I would not leave for good until the come and go of a year of seasons. If I was once a seed I had grown into a mesquite, and I was finally enjoying my shade. Before, I had wandered content, well-nourished from the freedom of decisions that had led me to this event. When I reached the desert, I gave in to a restful time and listened, for once, to the message of a music festival. If “music is the soul of life” then the desert is the body from which energy might manifest as humming, the vibrations as song. I met my Jay in Joshua Tree, and, one day, I flew away with him.
My first winter with Jay was a high-desert January and a world of wonder. I drove the three hours from Los Angeles, as I had done so many times throughout the summer, to reach our paradise in the desert. The last hour of the drive, heading up the mountain after a windmill valley, was hard on the car but easy on the mind. I passed the small but popular Joshua Tree city, catering to the tourists that came from around the world to visit the national park, the businesses boutique with faux-desert facades. Farther up the road Twentynine Palms -- an even smaller bucolic town that most only know if they have heard of the military base. Two different cities, like two very different beasts, feeding on that which keeps them growing. Turning off the main street there, I drove for a quarter of an hour more as the asphalt turned into dirt road. Not too far in the distance, with its red stripe around its side, the 1970’s El Rey camper was my minds favorite sight. I imagined that I could hear Jay's small dog panting as he listened for my tires driving up the property. I was moments from Jay's smile and feeling the weight of the wine glass in my hand.
The sky in winter matched Jay’s eyes -- a crisp and clean bright, blue grey. By morning, I was happy to be in the El Rey, warmed by the closeness of our bodies. If this had been August, the camper would be empty by midday, and we would be somewhere else searching for shade. Winter called for a noontime wandering. When the morning freeze had melted under the sun, we set out from our cozy home. Imitating the flower buds of the cacti around us, we wrapped up in layered bundles, bursting with anticipation for spring. Vast and limitless, ours was the most beautiful backyard in the world. Except for the few trails we had worn around the property, we explored in a new direction every day. There was every shape of twisting branch discovered for each pairless shoe found. When the afternoon warmed enough, we stopped anywhere in a greasewood bush field to drink wine, laugh, and watch as the stars appeared.
The Joshua Tree seemed the greatest teacher, the desert the greatest classroom. For it to survive, the Joshua Tree gave parts of itself to the desert; fruit for the sloth (extinct to humans) and seeds for Yucca Moth larvae to eat. When the flowers bloom in spring, the appreciative moth pollinates other trees. It is a thousand year old dance of coevolution. The philosophy of the Joshua Tree was simple; keep only that which you need to survive and a partner to help you grow- the rest is too heavy to carry.
Jay had a bird’s eye view of the world, and could see farther than I ever could alone. He could see where the wind would blow, dropping pieces of desert trash and treasures in a secret sand bowl. It was a long valley, hidden between a row of small mountains and sand dunes. Burnouts and storms and time had turned parts into pieces and sections to shreds. Collecting our favorite fragments of broken plates, plastics, and metals, Jay and I spent afternoons creating our mosaics. Longing for a body of water, the sound of a crashing wave, or the salt saturated spray of ocean mist, he brought a sea creature to life in the dry desert. With teeth of glass and shotgun shells for scales a devilish angler fish appeared from the sand. Once, a friend, stopping in our desert on a roadtrip across the country, painted a monarch over a wide boulder in our secret mosaic sand bowl. Before him, that boulder had looked like an abandoned Volkswagen bug in the distance. Then, it was as if the butterfly had flown swiftly into the side of the boulder and left her color splattered all over the sand. So vast, in fact, was this mosaic valley, that when we returned to find the massive monarch, with a wingspan twice as large as mine, she seemed to have flown off. Perhaps the Volkswagen had suddenly driven away.
Nothing dies in the desert. A seemingly dry greasewood, when its bare branch snaps, reveals a jade green center, ready to feed the new leaves of spring. If something begins to lose life, it crumbles over the sands' surface and smooths to preservation becoming an important particle of the ever growing land. Everything becomes the desert again.
The first time I crashed a motorcycle I fell into the soft embrace of the desert. The deep trail behind me snaked its way more sharply the closer to where I lay. Jay hadn’t seen me yet. I didn’t want him to think that I was hurt. I unburied myself from the sand and, despite the pain in my shin, walked over to the other side of the little red Honda to pull it up. By the time Jay had noticed, I was loading onto the bike again. I only fell once more that day as we were leaving the mosaic valley, burying my front tire into the side of one of the dunes. Again the snickering snake led to exactly the point where I was splayed across the sand.
Summer had gone months before but the grab of its rays still burned like yesterday in our memories. Each blazing day of that season, when the rocks and the trees and the mountains began to see their shadows, we set off on another ride. The buzzing motorbikes echoed through the canyons we explored. The world hummed to the tune of our adventures. Eager for curious visitors and luring us in with their shade, we rode up to the mouth of the hungry caves. Abandoned mines that had no notion of time. It would be weeks before the next desert riders would find them again. Leaving behind the cold and burning superheated summer surface world to the lizards, we walked into the earth and entered the cool, endless darkness. Deep blue turquoise streaks lined the inside of the otherwise rough earth; perfect lines of oxidized copper led us deeper and deeper inside.
Like Plato's allegory of the cave, I wondered if my high-desert stories made sense to many city dwellers or the strictly social media savants. Would they see the value in the voids or the expanses of the desert? How might I convey the worth in the woe of an abandoned mine? After allowing our internal temperatures to drop, and our inner thoughts to cool and calm, we wander back to see how the sand of the summer had changed. Time is measured by the sun, and it waits for no one.
We were never lost following the cooing and whispering hints of the wind, then the allure of the light. Emerging from the mine, we were enveloped in a warm embrace by the two; the sky and the sun welcomed us again. Unlike a city, where the alleys at night should be avoided, this world would not punish me for walking into the darkness.
Regardless of the season, each morning my eyes were opened by the gentle kiss of sunrise, calling for me to come outside to face the rising Ra. These 2,700 feet above sea level are pure -- similar to starving the muscles for oxygen, so does the elevation strengthen the soul. There is little room for the toxic smog of my mind that I bring with me from the city each drive and soon it is all taken away by the very same wind the urges me forward. I must have followed that very wind to that Spring festival that took me away with Jay forever. Each day in the desert since then, we did as the animals did and looked to find shade at noon otherwise, we would be bake in that retro and aluminum camper. We had to move or risk withering away as I once did on the third day that I had met my Jay.
I was falling in love with a blue Jay, and distracted I forgot to drink water, to eat, or to sleep under the stars. So, I unknowingly was fading away until I finally fainted. Catching me, as if I were a seed, Jay took me under his wing and placed me in the shade of my desert realty; there is no room for toxicity, remember the lessons of the Joshua Tree; only take what you need, and he chose to take me, the rest was too heavy to carry.
While in that daze of those days, I remembered the day Jay firmly dodged the first time I reached for his chin. In a tent booth full of precious gems and crystals, he was the most captivating -- the most valuable thing. Resonating over the entire Joshua Tree valley, the festival music enveloping the tent seemed muffled and low to the mocking Jay’s song. Would he believe that we would spend so many sunrises together in this very desert? Or riding home each sunset before the darkness could envelop the two of us on our motorbikes? One day, although it was sudden, we would fly away. We were unlike the valley’s ephemeral blooms, destined instead to flower forever. Nothing was the same after that summer in the desert and, after a year of seasons, we flew away together, my desert Jay and I.
Brandon Cantu was given a school assignment in creative writing when he was 6 years old. He and his mother, Melinda Cantu, chose to use a porcupine as subject material based on a TV documentary they had seen.
This is a story about a porcupine named Quillan. Quillan was a very nice porcupine except he had one big problem. Quillan could not control his temper.
Every day he would play baseball with his friends. When it was his turn to bat if the pitcher would strike him out he would get so MAD! Quillan would arch his back, tighten his muscles and his quills would stand straight up. His friends were so afraid to get close to him for fear of being stuck with one of his quills that they would all run away.
This made Quillan very sad.
He went home and told his Mom, “No one wants to play with me.”
His Mom said, “Quillan you have to CONTROL YOUR TEMPER!”
“But Mom how do I control my temper?”
"Try counting to ten.”
Copyright Brandon Cantu and Melinda Cantu
Read the full story on Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology
Esther Bonilla Read was born and raised in Calvert, Texas, a small town in Central Texas. She graduated from Baylor University and began teaching school in Corpus Christi, Texas. This became home for her and her husband Nolan K. Read and their four children. She writes on a variety of subjects: her family; school; and of various incidents that have occurred in her life. She has been published by various newspapers; Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul and several anthologies and magazines. Her Book From the Porch Steps is available on Amazon
Several years ago a nice woman wrote something like the following in the newspaper: Why do women argue for Equal Rights? Men place them on pedestals and there is no need to fight for equality.
Well, Folks, I have searched high and low for that pedestal, and I have never located it. Like the elusive "Fountain of Youth" for which Ponce De Leon searched and didn't find, so it is with me and the pedestal.
I am through looking.
copyright Esther Read
It was right before Christmas, and we fifth graders in Mrs. Pietsch’s classroom were an excited group of chattering students. WWII was over. It was now peace time, and it was a time to be happy.
Most students in our school didn’t have an abundance of material things, but we didn’t know that. And the students who had the least were the children of itinerant or sharecropping farm workers. Some came to school barefooted. Others wore the same clothes over and over. No matter how much starch the mother used before she ironed the girls’ dresses, they were the same ones worn week after week.
Suddenly midst the chatter we heard our teacher Mrs. Pietsch raise her voice. She told us to be quiet as she had an announcement. She asked, “Who took a five dollar bill out of my purse?”
Everyone was quiet. We looked at one another with questioning faces. Only the voice of two students walking down the hallway could be heard. Some students in our class whispered to one another. Two or three chairs scraped the floor. Then one boy laughingly said, “Ben took it.” I knew my brother Ben didn’t take anything from anyone. He never would.
raed the rest of this story in Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology
From the Porch Steps tells brief stories or incidents that entertain the reader. The vignettes may make the reader smile or even laugh out loud. The author relates her experiences (and sometimes the experiences of others) as she sees them through eyes that find humor and lots of heart. Buy From the Porch Steps
Who is Johnny Jebsen, and why does he keep emailing me?
My memorable remnants are few. Not so much for my lack of mental capacity but for the small and focused nature of my background.
As a 4 month old child I was left at the door step of a Monastery; hence, parent-less, without a history I was -- though I had never known it -- turned over to Monastery of the Order of Sanctus Sicario, or what is the Holy Assassins of the Holy Catholic Church.
That no history exists, that nothing has been recorded precludes not that it ever doubtfully existed, but that we were so well hidden.
Here now is my story.
copyright Johnny Jebsen
Jose Olivares was born in Corpus Christi. He graduated from Roy Miller High School, and the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&I University Kingsville, and Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. He worked as a secondary mathematics teacher, middle school principal and Corpus Christi Independent School District mathematics consultant and as adjunct professor of mathematics at Texas A&M CC. Jose and his wife Tomacita have three children who are also graduates of UT Austin. Their daughter Liana Gonzales is an attorney in Corpus Christi and daughter Mariela Olivares is also at attorney and law school professor at Howard University in Washington DC. Their son Jose Luis is a graphic computer artist in Portland, Oregon. They have four grandchildren.
“Please close the windows, the air is burning my face” my younger sister cried as we drove to California seeking work as migrant workers. My parents had loaded the family (five children ages 17, 15, 13, 10, 4) into the car and headed cross country to the Bakersfield area. Two older siblings did not join us—one was married and the other was serving in the U.S. Army. I was 15.
Our car did not have air conditioning, but the desert air blowing into the car was so hot that we alternated closing and opening the windows. My Mother would constantly place a wet towel over my Father’s head and shoulder in order to cool his body.
We worked picking grapes, peaches, potatoes and tomatoes. Our home was in one of the many labor camps in the area. Our shelter was a metal structure that felt like a furnace in the hot summer days. Our shelter had no electricity, running water or bathroom facilities. Group facilities were available for our use.
Read more of this in Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology
Juan Manuel Pérez, a Mexican-American poet of indigenous descent and the current Poet Laureate for Corpus Christi, Texas (2019-2020), is the author of numerous books. He is a ten-year Navy Corpsman/Combat Marine Medic with experience in the 1991 Persian Gulf War with the 2nd Marines and the 1992 Hurricane Andrew Relief Marine Air Group Task Force. This two-time Teacher of the Year, along with his wife, Malia (a three-time Teacher of the Year), is a co-founder of The House of the Fighting Chupacabras Press. Currently, Juan worships his Creator, teaches public high school history, writes poetry, and chases chupacabras in the Texas Coastal Bend Area.
God is Good! God is Great! God is Awesome!
Ladies, Gentlemen, Public School Teachers,
Wise Professors, Students of Poetry,
PHD Carrying Wal Mart Leaders,
Great Citizens of Nueces County,
All of you present here this very night
A man once said, “Come to Corpus Christi.
I will put you and your words on display
Among those I know here in this city.”
So eventually I came to this coast
Tonight, I am tasked to introduce him
I say of him, as Kirk would say of Spock,
“Of all the souls I've encountered on my
travels, his was the most...human.” Indeed
“But good words; that’s where ideas begin. …
Maybe you should listen to them,” I did
A greater poet among great poets
Grand enabler of versification
Facilitator of bards yet to be
The soul of Shakespeare in this century
Grand things and much more can be thought of him
But he will play it off as nothing said
For in this façade of a common man
Rages the poet against his machines
Like Scotty working poetic engines
Expecting finesse in understanding
All the right words in all the right phases
Going where poems have never gone before
That is this man, my friend, and my brother
Kindred poet of a different mother
I do love him, but this is no love poem
These are verses of honor, gratitude
Celebration of this prize of passage
For the best and first among us all here
Despite my rants of ethnic brown issues
Obvious tortilla alliterations
Chupacabras and pesky wall builders
Our bond has become stronger through the years
Yet we are the same despite differences
Like our love for great women and monkeys
For Mexican food, football, and cold beer
For soda pop, polkas, and poetry
With reason, I say these words to you now
In some fear that you might never hear them
One day we will be only memory
To this end, the poet is duly cursed
Yet our words left behind will outweigh us
Fulfilling needs of many who read us
Don’t bother to grieve, it is logical,
Like flowers: here today, gone tomorrow
Yet crafted words remain printed in books
Choose the right ones to say and take the rest
For now we revel in celebration
As we partake in this, a great honor
This city’s very first Poet Laureate
What a wonderful thing it is to witness
And with that I close as I remind you:
I have been and always shall be your friend.
Lisa Mason has published ten novels, including Summer of Love, a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book and Philip K. Dick Award Finalist, The Gilded Age, a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book, a collection of previously published short fiction, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, and thirty-three stories and novellas in magazines and anthologies worldwide. Her Omni story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” sold outright as a feature film to Universal Pictures and is in active development. She recently published seven books in print and as ebooks on all retailers worldwide including Summer of Love, The Gilded Age, The Garden of Abracadabra, Arachne, Cyberweb, One Day in the Life of Alexa, and Strange Ladies: 7 Stories. You can find all links, reviews, and the covers on the Lisa Mason website at http://www.lisamason.com
July 4, 468 moons ago, my next-door neighbors and I opened up the doors to our penthouse apartments in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco and had a Fourth of July blow-out bash. Hundreds of people showed up, wandered from my apartment to theirs, and had a great time. I shut my Siamese cat, Sita, in my bedroom, and posted a DO NOT ENTER sign. No one disturbed her.
On my coffee table I’d placed a book I was reading and was excited about—a bestselling book called The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav, who (it turned out) lived in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco at the time. The book is a lively presentation of quantum physics and has amusing illustrations.
At around midnight in walked a tall, lanky, red-headed guy who had traveled across town from North Beach at the invitation of one of my neighbors.
He was Tom Robinson, the illustrator of The Dancing Wu Li Masters! He and Gary knew each other. Later, he illustrated my novel, Summer of Love, which was first published by Bantam, and drew the cover for the Bast Books edition now in print.
Quantum magic in real life! We’ve been together ever since. We married on July 7 and had our first date on July 14. (That COULD have been the wave/particle effect, but the marriage was in a later year.) He’s my soul mate, the love of my life, my best friend, and partner in all our creative endeavors.
Have a Happy Fourth of July!
Neesy Tompkins was born in San Antonio but left for Port Aransas as soon as she graduated from High School. She and her then-husband ran a shrimp boat for several years. Later, she was employed in the restaurant and bar industries where she met many colorful characters that are reflected in the stories she writes. It wasn’t until attending college, which was possible because of a Hurricane, that she was acknowledged as a writer by her winning of a National Essay Contest with her story entitled “The Gift.” She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications and a Minor in History in May 2017, which is utilized in her current self-employment as a social media manager and advertising agency for local Port Aransas businesses. Along with writing, photography of the Island she adores is a passion.
This is how I will remember you, Port Aransas. Before the oil storage tanks and before the dredging. Before the desalination plants and huge oil tankers.
I will remember the way you look at sunset, when the stars have just risen and the air hums with nightfall. Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men, even when those men are intent on destroying the beauty of this special place for the sake of the money that will line their pockets.
It is Christmas and the Harbor is filled with the sounds of Carolers from boats. Festive lights decorate masts and beams as slowly they glide through the marina, and if only for tonight peace fills the air with community. Tonight we stand together, intact, hot chocolate being served and the scent of peppermint from candies given freely by groups.
Silent night, holy night where dolphin roam freely in pristine, calm waters. I will remember this night for all that is held dear is about to change as the darkness of greed and current administration recklessly maintain the advancement of facilities destined to scar this special place and scrape away all the natural goodness.
But on this special night, people were joyous and the World was good and all was well as the boat parade Christmas lighting ceremony brought families and neighbors together to celebrate the Christmas season. Pray for Port Aransas.
Copyright Neesy Tompkins
Me and this old porch.
Last night I watched the fireworks from my old porch for the last time as FEMA retrieves their loaner at the end of this month.
I don’t own the land where this old porch sits, the land where my old cat Pepper is buried and where I have resided for over 19 years.
Many memories from this old porch.
I leave my old tomcat Pepper here in his grave but the porch will go with me. Pepper, never forgotten and always in my heart.
To freedom, fireworks, whiskey and making new memories.
Anybody have a chainsaw I can borrow?
It was like any other day, the day my father died. Oblivious to the crying and runny noses on the other end of the phone line, it seemed surreal, like the way talking sounds through the fog across a ship channel, muffled. With shaky voices, they talked of arrangements.
Voices repeated that he was really gone, as I tried to comprehend how I was supposed to act. And this huge sense of nothingness overcame me, like trying to stay adrift through a dark sea of bitterness and disappointment, blindly searching for an answer that is not there as I attempted to feel what they were feeling.
After the funeral, after the law books and business had been divided and before returning to the Island, my share of possessions resulted in a cardboard box filled with ships that my father had collected throughout his years, always on his credenza shelves in his law office collecting dust. Some metal, others bamboo, and even an oil painting in cobalt blues of a Spanish galleon tossed upon stormy seas.
The box went into the storage room of my old mobile home, in the place I stored things that I didn’t care to see. A junk room, cluttered with bird feathers and seashells, a rusty ironing board and old photographs of a life long ago known that had somehow changed so drastically to have tossed me here on this Island known as home for so long.
Home, such a strange word. How to define home? I was not born here but knew I belonged here. Here with the harsh Winters and a chill that reaches down the corridors of your heart, yet the ocean gave me comfort, like a warm blanket and a buffer between the world and me.
Until that day in August and a storm that drove in unsuspected, so only a few pair of clothing changes were taken as I loaded up for higher ground.
A week passed, holding my breath, stuck in a city with concrete and buildings that obliterated any chance of viewing a sunset. With an aching heart I returned, knowing that what was left might not be much after seeing video after video of first responders on social media, some of them close to my street but never my street exactly. Prepared for the worst, my feet trampled heavily through still wet and muddy ground, and a stench that was almost as unbearable as the mosquitos dive-bombed any flesh left uncovered.
My old mobile, what was left of it, lay on its side, white walls fallen like broken wings in the mud, weighted down by sewage and stinky mud. Everything was covered in a putrid brown color, the stench of rotting fish and seaweed halfway up the sides with wires exposed. Ironically, the kitchen shelves and dishes in the cupboards stood untouched, coffee mugs ready for a new morning and a new day. Searching through remnants for anything that might be salvaged, a few dead birds lay in awkward positions pointed the way on the saturated ground to where a book lay open. It was the only book found, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, pages still damp, barely legible and opened to expose a line reading “Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid”. And I started to cry. One of those long moaning cries that comes with the pain of letting go, and giving in.
Zoe Elise Ramos was born and raised in Corpus Christi. She studies chemistry and creative writing at Texas A&M-CC. She has been a poetry editor for the Windward Review since 2016. Her work has been featured in the Switchgrass Review, Sink Hollow, and the Sagebrush Review. She was also awarded a 1st place prize in the 2018 Scissortail undergraduate creative writing contest. Her latest work (in progress) is a multimedia zine which pays homage to social media culture and its impact on communication styles.
We are under the trellis of Nueva Vita, a garden that murmurs with heaves of impatiens. From somewhere, the scream of autos tears at the plum of gingersnaps. They coil and fold their leaves into boats. I hold your hand while leaning, watching passerines blowing kisses to one another. This is just as you like though we are not llamas gemelas; we are the stems of an allium shooting off in diverging directions, never to touch but always close, borne from the same fruits. We swell from the heat of that glowing suspension and the sun is singing. It singes your skin into milky champurrado. Liberated winds hold their shining ends as if a vessel. And hummingbirds bait and stick us as we turn to sap all over the tree scenery. An SUV bares its teeth across the way to remind us that we are machinery. You cup your hands into buds and hold them over these ears. Your words are soil to me with my ligaments of buzzing bees and veins rippling with honey. “Suelo bueno, tomar este corazón y comerlo.” The cherub fountains of flushed marble cry themselves onto the floor. Brown translucence melts into creases between planets, with our shoes dripping into softness, wasted pollen stolen on fingertips. Now, we no longer stand but float atop the white and scarred swing, still creaking back and forth like the hands on a clock. Usted toma estas flores picante como el suyo en su boca. I give you my roots and you give me your flowers.
copyright Zoe Ramos