Thursday, February 23, 2012

All Those Californias

Octopus's Garden (made of chocolate!)
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Stephanie Hoogstad, Cottonwood, CA

I had to explain to this girl
that I don’t live by a beach.

“I live near the mountains;
we’re about as landlocked as we can be.”

She didn’t get it.
They never get it.

There’s three Californias: the Backwoods, the Bay, and LA.

Still don’t get it?

Then you don’t live in California,
and you’ll never get it.

I’ll try to explain it one last time:

There’s the Backwoods;
it’s mountains and forests and farms and cows
with just a bit of beach,
if you have the time to drive to the coast.
It’s most often called NorCal.

Then there’s the Bay;
it can be colder and windier and more unpredictable
than the stereotypes make it seem.

And then there’s LA;
it’s like something straight out of a movie
’cause it is.
It’s Hollywood.
It’s most often called SoCal.

I don’t live in LA!

I don’t live in the Bay!

I don’t live near a beach!

I live in the Backwoods, for God’s sake!

Sweet and simple:

NorCal ain’t the Bay or SoCal,
the Bay isn’t NorCal or SoCal,
and SoCal is no way in hell NorCal or the Bay.


—Kary Joseph Shender, Davis

at a prison bound
by eucalyptus windbreaks,
many men acknowledged no ken
of what those trees are,
I vowed
to bring some leaves in
for them
to smell,
to touch,
for a moment to savor.

I never planned to leave them there.

The grounds guard who sped
across the open field to catch me,
cared nothing for men
so long severed
from the natural world.

“Drop the leaves,” he commanded,
and, when I didn’t,
again, “Drop them.”

I offered my I.D.,
opened my mouth to explain
but closed it again,
there was no way to say
how a eucalyptus leaf
could provide

a temporary balm.


—Kary Joseph Shender

Shells, husks, peels,

all confine, protect
until the time
the inside is mature,

Then they fall away
or are cracked, stripped.

Would that prison walls would do the same.


—Kary Joseph Shender

Your hands are muscled,
chains tattooed across your knuckles,
mine, too, are tattooed,
but by Time.

While yours are smooth,
my rippled hands have spots, not ink induced
but sprung from sun,
easily as dangerous as your chains.

My work with children
on playgrounds and rough ones on the streets
my gardening and swinging
mattocks and McClouds while earning my keep
in a County park, striving to maintain my strength, planting
native species,
these stories now show
in my hands.

I see more than you think
in your chains, how each link
was dutifully earned
as you learned to serve la pandilla.

No matter that.
You’re past it, have grown,
put away childish things.
The chains will disappear
like a smudge or a tear,
when you’ve forgiven yourself and can remove them.

What I want you to know,
oh! how I want to tell you something
with my hands,
is that your inked hands and mine, splotched
and sometimes swollen,
               can meet and clasp in empathy.


Thanks to today's contributors, a couple of newcomers to the Kitchen! Stephanie Hoogstad is all the way from Cottonwood, up near Redding, and Kary Joseph Shender is another Davis poet, joining the ranks of all our other fine poets from across the Causeway.

Speaking of poetry in Davis, Sacramento artist and writer (and frequent art contributor to WTF) Jennifer O'Neill Pickering is the featured artist in the latest issue of Blue Moon Literary and Art Review (#8). Writers in this issue include winners of the Will Albrecht Contest; an excerpt from the novel by Lisa Slabach; poetry by Lilly Deng and Tom Pescatore; stories by W.A. Reed, Amanda Crum and Victoria Smith and photos by Josh Tulman. BMLAR is available through the Sacramento Avid Reader, from, and in Davis at Avid Reader, Newsbeat, Konditorei Austrian Pastry Cafe, John Natsoulas Center for the Arts and Rominger West Winery.


Today's LittleNip: 

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

—Ernest Hemingway



Click/pic to enlarge,
with thanks to Cleo Kocol for forwarding this to us.