san francisco peace and hope

Chapter 4: AWAKENING
“Believe that the world is an ethereal flower, and ye live.” Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums



do not start with grace
but a cracked shell
and push against the heavy dark
past the spiked shield of leaves
before the modest buds
flower outrageously

Ken Saffran



I think of newborns
who claim the universe
in a glance;
elders who send forth
sparks of awareness
that perk up a whole room.

People who are as real
as the yearly butterfly migration
down the California coast,

wings fragile in flight
yet linked for upplift
in the airy tide of wings,
the gathered pollen of wings,

the entire congregation moving
as one great body --
lively and full of light.

© Claire J. Baker


An old woman

walks with a cane 
the space between 
the left and right 
each step three taps. 

An old woman 
talks to herself—– 
question, answer, 
wonder, response, 
and fear, fear, fear. 

One old woman, 
unsteady mind. 
Dog, neighbor, friend—– 
a talking stick. 
Thoughts move along. 

Zara Raab


Eleanor Leonne Bennett, Mother Walking, photograph


Situation, Precarious

And a friendship dissolves
as we have one sunny day after another, after another.
A notice from the Department of Building Inspection is posted in the lobby.
The unemployment benefits might stop.
As I live by myself
and cook for myself.
Is my year of living carefree
about to end?

The cat grows more affectionate
and curls up beside me on the couch as I watch television.
The cable company says I'm getting too many channels
for the rate I pay.
Will I not be able to watch
When Vacations Attack,
Pit-bulls and Parolees,
Animal Cops Houston,
and I Shouldn't Be Alive?

I've started working on the family tree
contacting cousins I haven't seen for fifty years.
Their names will be contained in small boxes
on a spreadsheet,
little coffins for all of us
© 2011  Jane Rades



warm blood warming air
dancers circle and cross
aim and testify
celebrate in time
step out of the shadows
like you
keep a knife in your boot
dance as if you’re a pair
of lips
grab hold on swing around
let go

Ken Saffran


Hopscotching From House to House Jane Rades
painting by Bruce Barton



Tonight I walk under distant stars
as I did when a child with my mother,
as I did with long ago lovers
on cold San Francisco nights. Eyes up I see clumps of sputtering stars,
mists and miles of space between them. I walk down Castro Street past
the movie theatre with red and
blue neon lights, bars crowded
with voices, boomboom beat.
Transvestites in stiletto heels
tease the tourists, homeless  
people sprawl on the sidewalk
cuddle cats, dogs, even a rooster,
clutch cardboard signs,
“Trying to get home to Yreka”. I ponder the space between stars
the distances between people
the miles we travel to meet.
My feet climb up Liberty Hill
past houses with dark windows. Questions make themselves
at home in my mind – What creates this infinite space
and fills it with pulsing stars?
What is the place of homo sapiens
in the universe, and the universe
what is its place in us?
How long are the journeys
we take to know one another? I am again eight years old
body tingling with wonder.

Nancy Wakeman 


Andrena Zawinski, SF Cable Car, photograph



Homage to Bill Turnball in Berkeley
Founder of North Point Press—
All writers present wear black.
Audience for Gil Scott Heron
Poet, singer, politico
at Kimball’s East in Emeryville—
All patrons present wear black.
Reading by Poets for Peace
at Café Kommotion in San Francisco—
All poets present wear black.

Writers, I beg of you,
even if you are a neo-beatnik
post punk celebrator of urban decay
in the deep, dark cellars
of the coffee underground, wear color!
How about turquoise, fuchsia
yellow, purple, crimson, green!
How about Irish green
like the color of the California landscape
after it’s rained in spring.

Throw away those long black coats!
In Guatemala, the indigenous people
eat black beans every day
but wind ebullient color
round their bodies—
red and turquoise and purple
while we in USA
petroleum fat love black.

Love color, people!
Love red, love pink,
love orange, love blue.
Wrap that hue around your body.
Make a statement to the world
     Poets love life!

Judy Wells


her lullaby

between the cat
and the baby

and our wedding ballad
sang by bryan adams
and the cell phone call
from sister-in-law

and the unfinished

worth dying for

a spanish tune I
once sang to at karaoke

i don't need a lullaby
rhythm of life
is where she finds solace in

she is where
i find peace.

Dabetswe Natasha


Two Spiders and a Spotted Dog CB Follett
painting by Squeak Carnwath



A fish the size of my childhood
Swims up to bite me
I hold my hands up to protect myself
But it is not enough
I need your hands too!
How else to walk the only beach
A hungry fish cannot be found?

Susan Gangel


After blessing the kitchen,
sprinkle two level teaspoons
of finely-ground blend into filter.
Boil a mystical cup of water.

Place filter over favorite cup,
swirl boiling water over
granules, inhale the aroma,
watch the slow drift, the sift.
Lean close over cup,
steamy pool warms cheeks.
Sweeten or cream to taste.

Your nearby recliner
or most comfy chair grins.
Prefigure close coordination,
then tip way back, relax,
carefully balance, enjoy.

You are Clara Barton, Helen Keller,
Whoopi Goldberg, Emily Dickinson,
Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Cassatt --

clever, caring, influential!

© Claire J. Baker


Lena Levin, Bread and Milk, Oil on canvas panel
"So little I need -- a crumble of bread, a drop of milk -- and this sky, and these clouds" (Velemir Khlebnikov).

Restart Button

Morning breaks and, look, I’m listing
today’s lineup of fits and fusses. 
I fume over fractured plans,
unscheduled stops and surly telephone
clerks, long for reliability,
respite from relentless rain.  Could I
laugh it off, quaff a whole
caraffe of well-being?
A book, a bite, a snuggle, a snooze
might right the applecart.  Later,
I take a long walk and, look,
I enlist three leggy deer,
grazing on the naval station lawn;
two eagles, chuckling, wheel
and tango over the tree-tangled lane;
one sleek length of otter
slips beneath the grey silk ripples
of the lagoon where my tippy skiff
bobs easily, sails furled.

Patrice Haan


While Wading Through The Shorelines of Time Ishtar-Lhotus
painting by Elizabeth Hack



Everything passes.
Nothing remains the same
nor can, nor should.
New growth springs up
falls down
pushes aside.
The old crumples
shatters, slumps,
and this is beauty.
Always something arises,
new & beautiful.

That’s our hope and work
accidental or determined
sorting, sifting, aligning,
a handful of purple pansies
a song line
a pebble
an ornament of voice or instrument
a coloured thread
a weighted word
five candlesticks on a linen cloth
a crystal paperweight
rain in a dry land.

Patrice Haan


Walking in the City 

Walking rotates to the front the pelvis, 
while the gangly arms and the shoe tips slice 
an air shared by car engines and storefronts, 
by strollers and dogs, children and parents. 

Walking tilts the head to the horizon–– 
tilts the camera on the legs-like-pistons, 
heads being the devices for recording  
with a swivel scenes of winter mornings. 

Walkers preceded us clearing the rocks, 
digging them up, taking them off in carts. 
Other walkers filled the space with objects— 
sidewalks and gutters, trash cans and car wrecks. 

Morning walking sparks little bursts of light 
inside the brain, thoughts made articulate 
at dawn and disappearing by noontime,  
little auroras in the cold, clear mind. 

Raab Zara


Painting-Cityscape-Richmond Terrace I

© All rights reserved. Christopher Gulbin, Richmond Terrace I, watercolor