Adriana Gonzalez

I am ten years old and I am pacing around the bathroom with every faucet running water.

The shirt I am wearing hangs over my right shoulder because I have just cut out the collar with the pair of scissors my mother uses to curl Christmas ribbon. My toes bend and grab the bathroom mat with each step. If my throat would just stop closing and my stomach would just stop boiling, I would lay my face on the green, soft mat because I am tired and I have not slept.

There are two sinks with four handles running hard water. I am in front of the mirror and I can see a small face, a grey shirt, a pink, braided friendship bracelet on my left wrist and yet, I am swimming.

I am in my bathroom trying to touch down, to use those same scissors to cut out this charcoaled hole in my chest but I leave the water that’s running and the reflection I see to swim in a world where these things that I am feeling, and these moments that are happening, become quiet.

I swim in phthalo blue. I swim like a small frog through shaded foliage. I kick out and spin around pink coral, turquoise plankton illuminates me, and I consider if these various waves and trenches could be what heaven is like. But I am not a frog and this is not heaven.  My lungs will fill with forgotten blue water if I ever swim around pink coral. Bacteria and gas will mix around my hardening organs before I float. No one will know of me until it is too late. I will puddle.

I am ten years old and the United States Government has just indicted my father. I am ten years old and my father asks me to pray for him. I pray for air every night so he might stop sweating, and so that my mother will stop crying, and because my grandmother needs to wake up, now. I pray every night and I think about how my mother cries when she says my father will go away, and when she tells me my grandmother suffered an aneurism and how my father’s bus company is being charged for smuggling illegal aliens within the United States Border.

These are space words, space phrases that suspend and spark as they continue to push the boundaries of my imaginary page. I have no control over them, no understanding and so I pace around the bathroom every night. I pray for vibration so that I may breathe in this pink bathroom with the green mat and the locked brass doorknob, because my parents are in their room sleeping and the sinks have filled and begun to spill over.




I struggle between wanting and knowing how crucial it is to be aware of the world yet being extremely cynical about how individuals are portrayed in the news. I have difficulty trusting people and I question compulsively.  I otherwise avoid politics, topics of immigration, equal opportunity, underemployment, The American Dream, because my grandmother is dead and nothing I say, write, or scream can bring her back. I suppose her aneurism could have exploded later in her life—instead of her head puzzling into the corner of the sidewalk weeks after the indictment, it could have happened to her in the shower, while she was gardening, maybe as she boiled water for tea. I suppose she could have died in February, when rain is plenty in California, when the San Bernardino Mountains glow with snow. But she died during fire season.

I spent my entire childhood learning of fault lines and tectonic plates, how to effectively duck and cover if ever a displacing earthquake split the Golden State, but none of that prepared me for this. What do you do as a child when your mother nearly strangles herself with a telephone cord as pages and pages of multiple counts and superseding indictments pour out of the fax machine? How else can you escape besides swimming at night in your bathroom? What sort of god do you pray to when you are asked to pray for justice?




He describes it like a love affair. He says the sky carried white lines that morning and the night blooming jasmine stretched itself until dawn. In a California December, there is a king shrub that blooms: bougainvillea with white and red and pink petals. He noticed that this king shrub seduced night blooming jasmine, and saw these two perennials, the jasmine and bougainvillea dance together, slide in and out between each other with lines of pink in the sky behind them. He never realized that the bougainvillea carried thorns on its branches. My father saw the ninety-one freeway and the seventy-one freeway alit with white and red when his hands were behind his back, when his Miranda Rights were read, when he admired the jasmine’s ferocity towards morning.




My father owned one hundred and fifty charter buses. Each bus was purchased at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. He employed six hundred employees and operated in six western states. My father’s buses traveled around nineteen million miles a year and brought in thirty-three million dollars in ticket sales. My father was born in Mexico. My father was born in a kitchen of an adobe house and my grandmother gave birth to my father in her kitchen. There were no numbers; there was only the earth and the rooted trees and deep ravines that cracked.

My father owned one hundred and fifty charter buses and was the owner of a business that was worth forty million dollars and he was indicted by the United States Government on December tenth, two thousand and one, and charged for transporting illegal aliens within the United States Border. How do you escape fire season in California?

You don’t. You let the fire take the fields.




I was twelve years old when I walked dogs for two months so that I could afford to buy a new sweater. There was a sixth grade camp field trip, and we would be going to the mountains, and we were promised that there would be snow. I went door to door, explained to my neighbors that I was providing a dog walking service. Those who agreed handed me various colorful leashes despite the fact I brought my own.

I walked dogs for two months so that I could afford my mountain clothes. It was a secret from my parents—dog walking required me to leave my cul-de-sac and wander to gated communities, but my father was with the lawyers, my mother back at work.  I was twelve years old and I walked alone with colorful leashes gripped in my palms and I counted my steps up every driveway and along the sidewalks. Out of necessity, out of nervousness, I counted. I counted numbers, ones and twos and threes and then I would return the dogs and count the dollars in my pockets. I counted three dollars for every big dog, one dollar and fifty cents for every small dog and five dollars from the nice man, whose name I can’t remember, with a beagle named Thomas.

My father took me to the Lake Elsinore outlets when I asked him if we could buy a sweater for the mountains. And so he took me there, one afternoon, when he was not with his lawyers, when my mother was working, to buy a sweater.  I walked around the outlet, attracted to the walls of waterproof coats, and bright, sequined boots, but found myself at the clearance rack. I held the yellow tags in my hands, and read the prices in my head. In my head I read the numbers, I thought about what twenty percent off meant and how the additional ten dollars off at the register would bring down the total of my sweater to thirty-four dollars. I had fifty.

My father reached in his pocket and I said, I got it, Dad.




Not always, but definitely in my case, the traditional Hispanic household, backed by Catholicism, does not believe in anxiety or mental illness. My father was battling the most powerful country in the world, my grandmother was unmoving in a bed, and still, we continued. My nights alone in the bathroom, my fear and visions of death, my questions of god and faith including the ulcer I had given myself were never discussed. Instead, I prayed. I crossed myself and lined up relics on my nightstand. I picked at their sad faces, I held them to my heart, and I gave them alternate names begging them to make things normal again. I wanted them to aid in the normalcy of life before my questions went unanswered, before my grandmother stopped painting her nails and dying her hair. It saddens me that my devotion to myth, faith, and family has been fueled by the same traditions that urged me to be shameful of my body—that prevented me from ever attempting to decode the inner workings of my brain.




She tasted the color green and heard the spots on a giraffe in the doctor’s office and there was no mention of her last good day, or her last good thought, or about how her hair appeared red in the reflection of the helicopter window when they moved her to another hospital. There was a delay in the airlift, and talk of a stroke, and no health insurance because the business had dissolved.

I saw my grandmother with a thick, white wrap around her head in a room that smelled like melted latex. It was an aneurism, a word I believed to sound like bees. I imagined my grandmother shoving her head into a beehive and swelling with honey behind her eyes. I hoped she would wake with a crown that smelled of cinnamon, and fingernails as sweet as candy, and her hair as red as the carnations she tucked behind her ear.




I learned how to do laundry during my father’s sweat spells, and I learned about false charges. I went with him to his meetings and I learned about racial profiling. I learned about money laundering and conspiracy, and I learned how a man who sweats is not necessarily guilty.  My father was sweating because he was losing.

Mr. Rey was one of my father’s lawyers. I would listen to Mr. Rey talk about racial profiling, and money laundering and conspiracy, and pride. I learned that no matter how innocent my father was, no matter how absurd and inventive the allegations were against him, my father was Mexican. My father was fighting the most powerful country in the world. My father would not win. Mr. Rey told us about the gardener that trimmed his hedges, and his housekeeper that he drove to the bus stop some times. You see? Hiring and transporting. You see how easy it is to do this? Plead guilty. It was no big deal. If my father pled guilty, he would stop sweating. If my father pled guilty, the eight superseding indictments would dissolve like detergent.

Were you listening to that? My father asked. I hope you were listening to that. You don’t ever give up.  If you do nothing wrong, you don’t ever give up, do you hear me?




Greyhound Bus Lines owned a subsidiary named SITA. SITA owned fifty percent of a bus company called Crucero that operated out of Mexico and crossed into the United States at the Tijuana boarder. My father was urged by his friends at Greyhound to trade in Golden State stock for Crucero stock. This would expand his business. This would give him more land. He would be powerful.  It was never disclosed to my father that Crucero had avoided being indicted for transporting and harboring illegal aliens just before Greyhound proposed the arrangement. My father knew none of this until the United States Government had to disclose their evidence. There were field agent reports that showed how Greyhound distanced themselves from my father after asking him to step down as President, after bankrupting his company, after giving the government his bus terminals in exchange for asylum.  My father could not win because he was living in a country that feared terrorism. My father could not win because everyone else had something to gain. Greyhound erased the competition, wiped their hands clean of the subsidiary and the government made beautiful, imagistic, outer space fiction of a family, of a business, to ensure the American people that the United States borders were safe.

What a strange, fictitious world we live in that dilutes our very real stories.




My father was indicted in the state of Arizona.  He was arraigned eight times over four years. My father drove slow out in the desert, but I found some comfort in desert sunrises.

I asked him if he ever felt like bursting. I looked out the window and asked him if he ever noticed how the sky looked scratched.

He listened mostly. I thought of the car to be a shuttle and my father to be a stranger. I talked and talked in a way that was liberating. I thank the desert, the blueness of the mountains, and the vastness of the land that allowed me to purge. I told him how afraid I was to die—how certain I was that my grandmother plumped then sanded back into the earth. I told him that I thought he would leave us, and that my mother would lock herself in the bathroom forever and we would have to live off of spaghetti and peanut butter jelly sandwiches. And then I started to describe stars, space, and this color of blue that was neither dark nor light. I told him that I imagined this color blue to be a higher place in heaven. I wanted to float in it, to swim, kick out my legs, be a part of life without ever having to endure it.

My father said, You have to have faith that we will eventually see things from a different place. It’s not our time yet, and when it is, it will be.

And if we don’t, what difference will it make?

My father was shaded by shadows in the car. His hair was thinning. His arms were thin. The orange streetlights passed us and provided momentary sparks of gold. My father looked older to me. I looked down at my hands as they turned yellow, then black, yellow, then black. I thought about saying something, screaming out, but instead I imagined my hands melting under an Arizona sunrise.


Adriana Gonzalez lives, writes, and works in Seattle, Washington. She holds an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia College Chicago and her work has been featured in Hippocampus, Label me Latin, and Cactus Heart, among others. She hails from Corona, California.

Blink of an eye / ideas and people connect / in haiku by Timothy Green


In Japan, the brief poetry form is all about socializing. Why not here, too ?

When my grandmother’s hearing had grown too poor for the telephone, we started exchanging letters. Once a month—on the same day as the Edison bill—I’d receive a handwritten letter, pressed firmly with a retired schoolteacher’s perfect cursive, yellowed paper cut neatly from the same ancient notebook. Family gossip, news of my father, the weather back east, details of her various ailments.

She’d close every letter with a haiku. It was both a hobby of hers, and a nod to my odd profession. Her last was probably her best:

snow-covered sundial


to tell time again

I imagined her as the sundial, snowed in by age, her bed long-since moved to the living room so she wouldn’t have to negotiate the stairs, waiting patiently for whatever spring might come in whatever existence might come next.

When I had a moment, I’d tap out a hasty reply, glancing out at the palm trees on Ventura Boulevard from my office window, and close with a responding haiku.

it’s December too

in California

the crickets shout!

There was a joy to the haiku that I’ve only recently come to understand. Easy to write but impossible to master, they never grow old. You can write them in the car stuck in traffic, or plop them easily at the end of a newspaper article. Haiku are so simple they can be simultaneously silly and profound, and that contrast has kept them fresh for centuries.

Most often my grandmother’s haiku would offer a shift in mood, adding levity or perspective or clarity to the information that the letter had shared.

lost my other shoe—

now even the right

isn’t left

Almost a decade later, I still remember many of them fondly, and they always embody my grandmother’s quietly sarcastic personality.

More recently, I interviewed Richard Gilbert, a haiku scholar at Kumamoto University in Japan. He described with great enthusiasm the beloved space haiku holds within Japanese culture. With a total population of 130 million, it’s estimated that 12 million attend a regular haiku group. Witty celebrities compose haiku-like senryu live on TV.

Haiku itself descends from a party game, so it should be no surprise that they’re fun to write. At the kukai, as it was called, friends would gather around a bottle of saké, taking turns composing lines on a chosen topic. Class boundaries and social conventions dissolved as participants adopted pen names, many of them humorous. Bashō was named after the banana tree outside of his hut.

Listening to Gilbert tell it, haiku as a social act sounds like so much fun that I can’t help wishing we made it a part of our culture in the West. An outlet for playfulness and creativity and face-to-face interaction, haiku embody much of what we seem to be lacking in the age of smartphones and Facebook.

So let’s start now. Why not cap off your annual holiday letter with a summary haiku? Turn a family dinner into your own kukai, composing short poems about the season.

Before you start, it’s important to know what haiku are and what they aren’t. No other form of poetry is so misunderstood. Haiku are not three-line poems of five, then seven, then five syllables. Counting syllables doesn’t make any sense in Japanese, which is divided into units of time and not sound. You can think of traditional haiku as three lines that are short, then long, then short in duration, but even that generality isn’t an important rule in modern haiku.

The heart of a haiku is really the kireji, the cutting word, which is almost a form of punctuation that divides the poem in two. In English we might use a dash or colon—this division separates the first image from the last, creating a comparison that can be evocative or uncanny. The best example is Bashō’s famous frog:

old pond—

frog jumps in

the sound of water

That dash is the kireji, and it signifies a complete cut in time and space. The haiku presents one image, an old pond, and then another isolated image, the frog jumping into the sound of water. How the two images relate to each other is left up to the reader—and it’s that interactive, connective leap that stirs our thoughts and emotions. This is one of the many things Bashō meant when he said, haiku jiyu, or “Haiku is for freedom.”

Much more goes into classical haiku, but this is all you need to know to write decent modern haiku in English. Don’t count syllables, just count images or ideas: There should be two.

watching football

my keyboard

almost silent

To learn more about the history of haiku, you can find my interview with Richard Gilbert in issue #47 of Rattle, or read his translations of contemporary Japanese haiku poets at his website.

Cynthia Covert

Elegy For Rufus, My Mentor And Friend

Gentle lord of the flowers, winter red, spring white,
Nurturing crops for market,
Toiling day and night.

Botanical cycles turn, those immortal keepers of time.
Age descends upon the Maestro,
Sounding its final chime.

The baton is passed.  Cycles proceed without end.
Russet hummingbirds circle the fountain.
You are missed my old friend.

Cynthia Covert is a longtime resident of Corona, California.  She is a horticulturist with an active garden design and consulting business.  Cynthia is also a cellist with the Corona Symphony Orchestra and the cello teacher for the string conservatory (Youth Symphony, Corona Symphony Conservatory Inland Empire, CA). Cynthia discovered creative writing in 2001 when she studied memoir writing at the UCR extension center and continues her work with local workshops such as Inlandia.

Cynthia is in Matt Nadelson’s workshop at the Corona Public Library.

Matt Nadelson

What is Poetry?

Upon hearing poems that don’t rhyme or follow a metrical pattern, new members of my writers’ workshop often ask me what poetry is then, if not meter and rhyme?

And this is a very good and fair question, one that deserves an answer.

Follow this link for the full essay, What is Poetry? by Matt Nadelson

Matthew Nadelson earned his BA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside and his MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University.  His poems and non fiction prose pieces have appeared in Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature, Ars Medica, Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems, Blue Collar Review, ByLine Magazine, Chiron Review, Connotation Press, Cliterature, The Inflectionist Review, Inlandia: A Literary Journey, JMMW, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and Whistling Shade, among other literary journals, and in the anthologies Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude and America Remembered, among others. His first poetry collection, American Spirit, was published in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press, and his second and third poetry collections are scheduled for publication in 2015 and 2016.

Mike Cluff

Melissa Bentley

Never wore Mary Janes
or Doc Martens
did not have a tv
to her name
was near average
everyday of her quiet life.

Took the bus from Home Gardens
to Lake Elsinore every Wednesday
to feed the ducks
with stale fritos and pita
from the tables
she hardly had ever eaten
from or cleaned in glee
and dreamed of
little kittens and squabs.

Decided one Labor Day
to do nothing
except exist
waiting until the stars
finally sung for her
alone in and near harmony.

Mike Cluff was a fulltime English and Creative Writing instructor at Norco College. He lived steadily in the Highland and Redlands area since 1998. His eighth book of poetry Casino Evil was published in June 2009 by Petroglyph Books. Mike passed away last year.

The BIG READ at Corona Public Library – Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 by Cati Porter

This fall, the Corona Public Library is hosting an array of events related to the Big Read, featuring the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The library will be handing out free copies of Fahrenheit 451 in anticipation of these events.

Join Inlandia Institute presenters in exploring this incredible book. Upcoming event dates:

September 10, 2014, at 7 pm join Lawrence Eby for a talk on the future of publishing.

September 23, 2014, at 7 pm join Suzanne Maguire for a book discussion.

October 1, 2014, at 7 pm join Jennifer Williams-Dean for a book discussion.

These events are free and open to the public. Stop by the library to pick up your copy of the book and we hope to see you there!

“The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.”

As a Living Language, English is Malleable and Still Changing by Matthew Nadelson

When I think back about what I really learned in college, aside from the insights I received during a handful of fascinating lectures and conversations with excellent professors, the ideas I still remember today are the conclusions I came to myself regarding the material presented, much of which were based on material presented in other courses.

Looking back, I realize that it was the culmination of these courses that allowed me to observe alternative, and often opposing, viewpoints and arrive at my own conclusions.

Of course, I wasn’t just drawing on my experience from other college courses when I came to these conclusions, but my life experiences as well. And, the clearest material was the material I could most relate to personally. Now that I have taught for eight years, I understand that a similar personal connection to the material can be beneficial to the teacher as well.

Because of this, I think the best advice I could give any teacher (of high school and above), in addition to more obvious things such as letting students’ questions and comments direct the discussion, is that we not only must show the students how the material relates to their lives, but we also must present the material in a way that relates to our own lives.

When teachers don’t do this, students lose interest. And really, why should they care about something that they can’t imagine providing any practical benefit to their lives? Grades are rudimentary motivators at best.

Another problem I see is that too often too many teachers fail to place their subject matter in the proper context. They present it almost in a vacuum.

Here is an example: About five years ago, when we were both 30, an extremely smart woman I had grown up with, asked me whether it was OK to start a sentence with “and.”

She didn’t know whether it was ever OK to start a sentence with one of the most common words in our language. I don’t know where my friend went to school, but I’m pretty sure she has lived in Orange County all her life, and somewhere along the line, a college professor had told her it was never OK to start a sentence with “and.”

Of course, what this person had neglected to tell her was that in a college-level essay, it is generally not a great idea to start a sentence with “and” because it is informal (and it could be argued that the job of a coordinating conjunction such as “and” is to coordinate between independent clauses or … blah blah blah).

But this teacher had failed to explain to my friend the importance of audience, purpose and occasion in college writing, and how all these things determine the level of formality in the writing, and also the fact that English is a living language and English punctuation is only a few hundred years old and has changed radically in that short time.

For my money, the great American poet Walt Whitman said it best:

“Language, be it remember’d, is not an abstract construction of the learn’d, or of dictionary-makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. Its final decisions are made by the masses, people nearest the concrete, having most to do with actual land and sea.”

My friend’s anxiety over the use of “and” is not even the best example of this. One time an English tutor told me that he had been told by his teachers that the word “good” was never correct to use… ever – that “it should always be ‘well.’” He had no idea that “good” is the adjective and “well” is the adverb, meaning they are both good but should be used well.

Hopefully, this student wasn’t actually told this, but this is what he remembered … perhaps because he (or the instructor) couldn’t understand the practical application of such knowledge and therefore (perhaps even subconsciously) had no interest in really understanding the material.

Matthew Nadelson of Corona teaches English at Norco College and leads an Inlandia creative writing workshop every other Tuesday night at the Corona Library. Contact him at

Inlandia’s Fall Creative Writing Workshops Set to Begin by Cati Porter

The Inlandia Institute’s Fall Creative Writing Workshops are set to begin. Led by professional writers and writing instructors, each workshop is designed to meet the needs of writers working in all genres at all levels. Currently there are six different workshop locations:

Ontario, led by Charlotte Davidson [*Closed: Full]; Riverside, led by Jo Scott-Coe; Corona, led by Matthew Nadelson; Idyllwild, co-led by Myra Dutton and Jean Waggoner; Palm Springs, led by Alaina Bixon; and San Bernardino, led by Andrea Fingerson.

Each workshop series is approximately 10 weeks long, meeting every other week unless specified. Workshops are free and open to the public but registration is required.

Please RSVP to Registration forms will be emailed prior to and/or distributed during the first session.

And, while these workshops are free and open to the public, in order to keep them that way, we do ask that you consider an optional but suggested donation of $25 for the entire series. Information about why this is necessary is included in the registration packet.


Dates and times vary by location:

Ontario [*Closed: Full]


Led by Charlotte Davidson

6 pm – 8 pm

September 10 & 24, October 8, 22, and November 5


Ovitt Family Community Library

215 E C St

Ontario, CA 91764




Led jointly by Myra Dutton & Jean Waggoner

2 pm – 4 pm

First Friday of every month


Idyllwild Public Library

54401 Village Ctr Dr

Idyllwild, CA 92549




Led by Matt Nadelson

7 pm – 8:30 pm

September 9, 23, October, 7, 21, and November 18


Corona Public Library

650 S Main St

Corona, CA 92882




Led by Jo Scott-Coe

6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

September 25, October 9, 23, November 6, and 20


Riverside Public Library

3581 Mission Inn Ave

Riverside, CA 92501


Palm Springs


Led by Alaina Bixon

2 pm – 4 pm

October 8, 22, November 5, 19, and December 3


Smoke Tree Racquet Club

1655 E Palm Canyon Dr

Palm Springs, CA 92264


Free parking, accessible from E Palm Canyon or the Citibank lot on the corner of Sunrise/Hwy 111.


San Bernardino


Led by Andrea Jill Fingerson

3:30 pm – 5:30 pm

September 23, October 7, 21, November 4, and 18


Feldheym Library

555 W 6th St

San Bernardino, CA 92410

Alaina Bixon leads writing workshops, including Inlandia’s creative writing workshops in Palm Springs, edits books, and reads for the online journal The Whistling Fire. She is working on an article about women at MIT.

Jo Scott-Coe is the author of Teacher at Point Blank. Her essays can be found in Salon, Memoir, TNB, River Teeth, Hotel Amerika, Fourth Genre, and the Los Angeles Times. Jo is currently an associate professor of English at Riverside City College and the faculty editor of MUSE.

Charlotte Davidson received a Masters in English from Syracuse University followed by an MFA in poetry from UC Irvine. Her first book, Fresh Zebra, appeared in 2012. Charlotte leads Inlandia’s creative writing workshops in Ontario.

Myra Dutton is the author of Healing Ground: A Visionary Union of Earth and Spirit, which was a 2004 Narcissus Book Award finalist and a 2006 selection for “Ten Books We Love” by Inland Empire Magazine.

Andrea Fingerson has taught preschool, reading, and high school English. Currently, she teaches Child Development classes to teen parents. She received her MFA in Fiction from CSUSB. During that time she was a Fiction Editor for Ghost Town and the high school Outreach Coordinator for The Pacific Review. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is currently in the process of editing a young adult novel.

Matthew Nadelson teaches writing at Norco College and leads a creative writing workshop at the Corona Public Library (every other Tuesday from 6 pm to 8 pm) through the Inlandia Institute. He has lived and worked in Riverside County since 1997 (with the exception of a brief stint in San Diego at SDSU, where he earned his MFA in creative writing, from 2002 to 2005). His writing has been featured in more than 20 journals and anthologies, and he was recently featured on the Moon Tide Press website as their “Poet of the Month” for December 2013. His first poetry collection, American Spirit, was published in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press.

Jean Waggoner, a published fine arts reviewer, poet, essayist and story writer, has taught college English and English as a Second Language in Riverside County for the past thirteen years and co-leads the Idyllwild poetry and creative writing workshops for Inlandia Institute. Jean is an advocate for part time faculty equity and co-author of a book on the part-time professor experience, The Freeway Flier & the Life of the Mind.

* Charlotte Davidson’s workshop is now CLOSED due to maximum enrollment; please check back in winter to see if openings are available or join one of our other upcoming workshops that still have seats. San Bernardino and Corona both have openings.

Matthew Nadelson

Running Late

The hardest job I ever had was in 9th grade.
Every Saturday, after a week of running
from my teammates who, after every loss,
would toss the slower runners in the mud
after football practice, after another fall
of watching one another crumple like leaves,
I woke before daybreak to catch a bus
that dropped me off with migrant workers
lifting leathered hands to Jesus
five blocks from Village Nurseries,
where, for $4.25 an hour, I would drag
magnolias to customers’ cars
or catch a truck to shovel dirt
for rich people’s sewer lines until dark.
“Shit, I guess everyone needs somewhere
to defecate,” Bill Sowa would declare,
and we’d descend the sleepy aisles
of larches and balsam poplars
arching their regal arms across the sky,
or the rows of orange trees we daily heaved
onto the tractor my boss said I didn’t need
a license to drive. “Hell,” he laughed,
“half these guys don’t even have birth
certificates.” And during lunch,
a worker named Jose and I
discussed the relative firmness
of women’s thighs over emptied Coronas
and leaned back until the Palm trees
dangled from the Earth like feather dusters
brushing against the starless sea of smog,
which we knew the wind would wash,
along with Jose’s heavy spirit
and most minimum of wages,
somewhere south to his wife and kids,
who must have wondered when the wind
would bring their father home.
But Jose and I wondered not
how we’d survive it, for we knew,
our fingers dripping with the fire-
red salsa that had always run
from Jesus and his followers
who could never run fast enough.


Who Will Come Next

Watching wiper blades
smear the mud
against the windshield,
I smear the stars
from my eyes
and lift the hood.
Damned car’s not even
paid off and already
broken down,
along the 40,
somewhere between Barstow
and Siberia, California.
Above, two ravens
mimic the rhythm
of the blades,
their gentle sway the only
movement for miles
on this stretch of pavement,
a line drawn in the sand
to mark our place
for those who will come next.



The gardeners who trim the bushes low as their wages
have, in the name of fire-prevention,
stripped the eucalyptus branches
and lopped their mighty limbs, through which the moon
has many midnights dangled like a golden fruit,
and where the sparrows perched upon
those branches that held up the sky, now severed into stubs,
whole extended sparrow families displaced
with one swipe of the human’s mighty saw.


Matthew Nadelson is an English instructor at Norco College in Norco, CA.  His poems have appeared in Blue Collar Review, ByLine Magazine, Chiron Review, Connotation Press, Mobius, and other literary journals, and in the anthologies Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude and America Remembered.  His first poetry collection, American Spirit, was published in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press.

Tim Perez

thin skin

we met in the marrow of a great bird’s bone.
no you didn’t.

between the heart and breast plate.
no you didn’t.

between the floating rib
and melancholy.

what’s melancholy?
you know every time your mom smoked

that nasty stuff she blew out?
yeah, i said.

that was it, he said and stomped off.

i wandered to mom’s bookshelf.
he had yet to get rid of her books;

i took one crammed on top of the others;
it was thin and purple as onion skin.

when i opened it i found strands of her hair
taped to the inside.

when father caught me with the book he said,
quit looking for answers.

anyway you weren’t born, you were made.

like a sandwich, i said.
yeah, like a sandwich.

what kind of sandwich? i asked.
white bread with sardines, he said, now get outta here.

i trotted off, but before i turned the corner
he said, and leave the book.

i dropped it and slowly backed away. from around
the corner i watched father pick up the book and gently

lift a strip of yellowed tape with hair clinging to it.
i watched as the words ripped from the page

and they writhed like so many fishes and i watched father
drop the tape in his mouth and pull it out

like a chubby cartoon cat. the hair and the words zigzagging
down his throat

and i watched the glow in his chest somewhere
between the ribs.


when he brings in the dogs

no one talks about the one they would’ve
taken him for anyway.

told him his skin was too brown for anything
better than carrying a gun.

when he got there they made him a machine
gunner, but when he came back with his trophy
of tongues they let him alone.

and after he was through with his duty
and the damage was done they sent him
and his knife home.

and soon the terrors showed up in his morning
cereal and they’ve been showing up ever since.

independence day is coming which terrifies him
the most with its snapping of bones, so he brings
in the dogs says,

i have to bring them in or they’re just gonna
bark all night. but i know he huddles the dogs

on his bed surrounding himself with furry bodies
like ruck sacks.

his eyes just peering over them like a swamp
gator and he waits for the bombing to begin.

his teeth glowing like polished tombstones.
his favorite knife unsheathed. his dogs quivering
against his throat.


Tim Perez currently resides in Long Beach, but works in Corona. Twelve years ago Crooked was published by Gary Soto’s Chicano Chapbook Series. In between he became a high school English teacher, got married and brewed a small batch of children. Late this year Moon Tide Press will publish The Savagery of Bone, his first full length book of poetry.