Charlene Langfer

In the Present Moment

The days of the pandemic continue on. We are at home.
No distractions now, only a little rain. My dog Honey and I look
out at the spring flowers on the porch, purple pansies agog,
what blooms like crazy, a panoply of snapdragons, yellow
and red and purple. I fix a small meal of brown rice, carrots,
green tea, an oatmeal cookie. This is how it is every day
now. A notebook full of new poems about remaining in place,
a new life in the middle of the busy old one, I grow older
but I still think of the gardens I will plant in the future and
what has gone by in my life, how I did the best I knew how to do.
My dog catches toys I kick to her with my shoe, she’s an ace
perfect hand-eye coordination, quick, ready to beat me at this game
that only she knows the rules to. I work on a 1000 piece jigsaw
puzzle of central park and the rest of Manhattan, maybe
impossible to finish but I believe I can do it. We are stuck
here in the present moment, Buddhists, our prayer flags
hanging near the Buddha in the center of the room, ringing
the mediation bell early A.M. after we wake, walking further
than we ever imagined even in the rain, past the palm trees
and the canyon’s rocky edge, in the world we are in,
the darkening sky coming on us, a touch of sun, all the way
to the moon coming up over the mountains and the wild stars above

Charlene Langfur is an organic gardener, a LGBT writer, A Syracuse University Graduate Writing Fellow and her most current publications include a series of poems in Tiger Moth and Hawk & Handsaw, Halcyon Days, The Voices Project and Emrys, and forthcoming a series of poems in Weber: The Contemporary West.

Collaboration: Day 75

The Revolution is Here

“And what is it America has failed to hear?”— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Did you see Jesus walking down the street crucified again?
Breaking the cycle requires courage anew.
I carried a sign for peace in 1969.
Injustice begetting violence is déjà vu.

End police violence, we won’t be silenced.

While we can still breathe, never stop saying their names.
Listen to their voices and their unspoken voices.
We will teach our children to teach their children.
See the difference between protester and agitator voices.

End the brutality and mass incarceration in our nation.

Kitchen tables splintered by traffic stops.
No matter what, the next day, women with brooms, sweeping away.
Infected at the time of our founding. The cure is love.
Looting is anger, spewing from OPPRESSION.

End police violence, we won’t be silenced.

Souls and minds, open up your eyes to the visible!
May we regain peace in our nation.
Seasons cycle: hummingbirds flit, sun shines, unjust cities burn.
United we protest: no justice, no peace. Ya basta!

End the brutality and mass incarceration in our nation.

So take a knee, for one who can no longer.
I won’t stop taking a knee for justice.
Take a knee for justice, not hatred.
We are not dumb.

End police violence, we won’t be silenced.

What is there unsaid?
What remains undone?
What is left besides a revolution?
We’re already halfway there.

Original prompt: Write a poem of protest.

May 31, 2020

For George Floyd

Barbara Berg, Frances J. Vasquez, Kris Lovekin, Cindi Neisinger, Rose Y. Monge, Jeff Rogers, Natalie Champion, Burcu Misirli Chatham, Juanita E. Mantz Pelaez, Lisa Alvarez, Nan Friedley
Ruth Bavetta, Joseph Milazzo, Tameeca Griffin, Liz Gonzalez, Gudelia Vaden, Alexandra Kuhlmann, Rick Champion, Magdalena Nunez, Christine Perkins, Larry Burns, Kamelyta Noor

Collaboration: Day 74

In Our House

I woke up thinking of Santa Claus
Oh it’s the spicy shrimp smell in our house!!

(How the eyes water in our house.)

I woke up and made coffee and yogurt for two, but had no strawberries
I guess honey and walnuts will have to do in our house

(How we make do in our house.)

What’s the matter here, we’re outta coffee and beer
I guess a tea then whiskey will have to do in our house

(The order is what’s true in our house.)

There are catnip toys and a tree for viewing
but no pesky mice in our house.

(How we refuse order in our house.)

One on a bike, one in a car, one running,
Left laziness behind in our house.

(How a current runs though our house.)

La cuarentena to our casas gives us
pause for Zoom cultura in our house.

(How we do connect in our house.)

Time passes slowly, then fast
this curved path bending us in our house.

(How time circles back in our house)

Protests on TV, a rocket launched to space.
It feels like the ’60s in our house.

(How together alone we are in our house.)

Racism and anger will always arouse
Let’s work towards social justice in our house.

(How injustice is a fire burning down our house.)

Burcu Misirli Chatham, Nan Friedley, Juanita E. Mantz Pelaez, Kamelyta Noor, Natalie Champion, Rose Y. Monge, Kris Lovekin, Barbara Berg, Frances J. Vasquez

Collaboration: Day 73

The Great Pandemic Weekend

Chopping fresh cilantro today
for guacamole with friends.
I am an avocado aficionado.

No set plans as yet. I will let
my spirit guide me as I enjoy
the great weather. Enjoy a delicious
carne asada combination plate
from the Alberto’s drive-thru.

I’m Zooomily looking forward
to my virtual church
book club meeting tonight.

A long overdue date at the salon
with the miracle worker. Picking up
“The Great Epidemic”
at Cellar Door Books. Diving in.

Sitting on the patio, watching
the birds, lizards, butterflies, squirrels and rabbits
zoom around while eating
an ice cream sandwich.

Birthday party for
my 10 year old grandson…
pigs in a blanket and cake pops.
Gourmet dining.

Saturday night we share a grill
with friends but bring your own
beer, feedbag, and tools
to corn your own cob.

“Hey Love” on the record player,
legs crossed high, Sangria in my hand
and summer on my mind.

A midnight stroll in the elephant garden
under the full moon and twinkling stars
with a zoom beverage in hand.

Continuing the attack on the backyard
hedge and the encroaching honeysuckle.

Spending time with my family!
Swimming in the pool
Hearing again the sound
of ripples in Lake Perris

Happily joining Mike’s History Hike
for the first time. It will be
a face covering, socially distancing,
educational event in Downtown Riverside.
Oh hiking in the sweet sun!
Here I come, baby!!
Being out in nature with my camera

A writers retreat for me
on Sunday. Not exactly
what I envisioned—
Zooming is the new transition.
A delightful—although virtual—
gathering of scribes

Watching recent San Bernardino Singing
videos and hanging with friends
at the SB Singing
cumulative reading on Sunday

Walk write zoom nap nap zoom
eat garden zoom nap eat nap zoom
walk eat netflix no
chill alone again naturally 😉
A run along the river bottom

Mumbai calls; let’s dance at daybreak!

Original prompt: What is something you are looking forward to this weekend?

Liz Gonzalez, Rose Y. Monge, Robin Longfield, Nan Friedley, Frances J. Vasquez, Thomas Vaden, Debby Johnson, Kris Lovekin, Gudelia Vaden, Cindi Neisinger, Natalie Champion, Larry Burns, Tameeca Griffin, Kamelyta Noor, Ai Miyamoto Kelley, Rakhi Shelat, Burcu Misirli Chatham, Raquel Valdez, Faith Dincolo, Rob McMurray, James Luna, Vicki Broach

Collaboration: Day 72

At Home in the I.E.

An early ’70s swim, the chlorine and smog
mix in the petri dish of my lungs

In the moonless night off Watkins Drive,
a lone coyote tentatively yips

A road to donkeys, through a mountain
into a canyon, Reche Canyon!

Turn the left corner at Piccadilly Circus,
and there, the pub is waiting with my lunch

The chaparral that was once widespread
is still there in the nooks and crannies

In the late 1950s, living in abandoned
homes near the Mira Loma Air Force Supply Depot
on Etiwanda Ave next to
the Italian vineyards now forever gone

Steelworker here to represent!
Worked in Fontana most of my life

Riverside is not Detroit, wasn’t
in 1974, isn’t now can hide its small town
feel but it always emerges somehow

Joan Didion lied for the guys and blamed
the Santa Anas as to why Lucille Miller
killed her cheating husband in San Bernardino;
apparently Didion doesn’t understand betrayal

In the 1980s, Dad bought a bar
The Big O on Holt and Grove in Ontario

Breathing Taco Tuesday smog
in the drive through at Baker’s

Hiking the Sycamore Canyon hills
in search of superbloom poppies

Agua Mansa Cemetery, in its beautiful
decay, reminds me of what once
was, and the intruder I remain

Sweet smell of orange blossoms —
don’t replace it with a housing development.

The fruit stand and groves
on Ontario replaced with overpriced homes

The citrus groves near UC Riverside
remind us of the importance of the citrus
industry in Riverside’s economy

Meyer lemon trees blossoming near
the white noise of crawling highways

A little patch of bliss, fragrant
flowers and the sunshine of home

During the summers under the spreading shady elms,
we love to dance at Fairmount park

I can’t imagine living
anywhere without purple trees

Alexander Akin, Steve Perry, Debby Johnson, Juanita E. Mantz Pelaez, Rob McMurray, Burcu Misirli Chatham, Kamelyta Noor, Frances T. Borella, Sharon Sekhon, Cindy Bousquet Harris, Kris Lovekin, Raine Lefaivre-Naggi, Andrea Jill Fingerson, Natalie Champion, Barbara Berg, Rose Y. Monge, Cindi Neisinger, Gudelia Vaden, Robin Longfield

Original prompt: Write one line of poetry that evokes “place” to write about the I.E.

Collaboration: Day 71

Open with Care

My heart is swaddled in caution tape

As the city opens, I hope to be reunited
With family in other counties and states
But like the asylum inmates of “Queen of Hearts”
I feel safest at home

As an old woman I know to beware, like
Being happy it’s a sunny day but
Knowing it eventually will turn into a scorcher

Infection,
Pestilence,
Blight,
Plague,
Disease,
Death,
Rot,
Hope

The exhaustion of hope

Neighbors wave, but I can’t
See their smiles

As the city opens my senses
Are heightened, like animal
Instincts. If you’re not wearing
A mask, I’m frightened

Hoping San Francisco will lift
The Shelter in Place Order soon so I can
Visit my family in Riverside
Still Wearing masks all the time
Scared to fly on an airplane too soon

I am mindful, hopeful, but let’s not let
Haste make waste

Introverted minds like mine cannot conceive
The urgency some seem to feel for this reprieve

Hoping the anxiety of being with others
Won’t last for years
Praying for the miraculous
Vaccine that will allay tears and fears

All I want is to hit my beloved
Boxing bags. Oh I miss thee

Looking forward to the two-block
Walk to Cherry Blossom Salon
Where my locks will be trimmed, not shorn
Womxn over 50 can have long hair (and more)

Soft opening today at 4; community spiritcon2020
With special appearances by the facts (original members).
As the world spins faster reminding myself to keep
Listening to bird songs, and smell fragrant blossoms

All I could hope for everybody out and about
Clear understanding of what just happened
What is still happening
What may still happen

Open open open but don’t forget
How very fragile this all is

Original prompt: Write one line of poetry that expresses a kind of hopefulness around the County (and country’s) slow reopening.

Robin Longfield, Rose Y. Monge, Natalie Champion, Burcu Misirli Chatham, Debby Johnson, Larry Burns, Kris Lovekin, Frances T. Borella, Cindi Neisinger, Juanita E. Mantz Pelaez, Alexander Akin, Kamelyta Noor, Gudelia Vaden, Douglas McCulloh, Liz Gonzalez, Lisa Alvarez, Joseph Milazzo

Collaboration: Day 70

In the News Today

“Racist notes taped to homes in the Bay Area”
All she needed was paper, pen, tape and hate.
Fold and fly. Celebrate National Paper Airplane Day.
Nero played golf.

She chokes unleashed dog. Calls Cops:
”An African American Man is threatening my life!”
Cop’s knee on his neck. He dies in the street.
Another unarmed black man died at the hands of the police today.

Teachers with extra 600 dollars.
Thinking why to go back to schools.
Survey says: women carry the pandemic workload.
Learn from the German model, folks.

“Food Service Workers Are on the Brink
of a Mental Health Crisis,” and those who can
step up for these people who put
food on their plate and serve them.

Snip snip, soon it’ll be time to tip
cleared the way for a beauty parlor day
How about detain those suspected of hate –
protect Chicago and 38th.

Oh, mammalian brains of so many, you
misunderstand your bodily sensations and believe
they are more serious than they are.
Lance Armstrong remains unrepentant and vile.

Happy days are here in Riverside County.
On this day the Jacarandas drop their blooms like purple rain.
“We still have a long way to go to where we need to be.
We are walking into the unknown.” Gov. Newsom.

Live streams. Missing
my St. Agnes Catholic Church family
Having never set foot in a church
Jesus hardly noticed they had closed.

Covid cases are rising as states open up.
“Let everything be ok,” I say into my teacup
Never in history have the casinos and churches
been closed at the same time.

Original prompt: Look at a news source and write one line of poetry that uses the information from that source.

Burcu Misirli Chatham, Natalie Champion, Nan Friedley, liz gonzalez, Debby Johnson, Barbara Berg, Frances T. Borella, Rose Y. Monge, Cindy Bousquet Harris, Juanita E. Mantz Pelaez, Rob McMurray, Lisa Alvarez, Gudelia Vaden, Frances J. Vasquez, Sharon Sekhon, Raine Lefaivre-Naggi, John DiFusco

Collaboration: Day 69

Lives on the Line

My heart is heavy
for the frontlines,
essential workers
and servicemen who died.
Some fought with guns
and others masks.

Remembering my peers
who fought a war
that never was.

Unable to say
goodbye still grieving
for their loss.

And we remember
Abraham, Martin and John.

Vintage planes cruised
cobalt skies, saluting
vets at Riverside’s
National Cemetery.

Medal of Honor
bestowed on brave heroes:
Ysmael R. Villegas,
Salvador J. Lara,
& Jesus Duran.
We are grateful!

Our Flanders Field
is bereft of poppies—
see the red asphalt,
red concrete,
the schoolroom floor,
from sea to sea—
must this be our legacy?

Nameless. Faceless.
In the marble
sarcophagus
and the rippling
field of red poppies.

“This machine surrounds
hate and forces
it to surrender.”
Pete’s banjo cajoled
and inspired.
No force needed.

The flag will still
fly while some die.
We mourn those we lost
to Covid-19.

Battered wives hiding
bruises and pain
behind makeup and false smiles
and those brave enough
to save them.

The old me died when
I left you. Thank God.
I’m no longer
at war with you, but
the shrapnel will always
be embedded in me

Honoring courage,
caring, givingness.
Frontline workers.
We are Blessed.

We pray for those
who have died of
Covid-19.
May they rest
In peace in our
Heavenly Father’s hands

The candle keeps
burning for our war
with the Pandemic.

God hear our prayers

Original prompt: For Memorial Day, write one line of poem giving thanks for someone who has lost their life in a battle to save ours, including frontline and essential workers in addition to military service.

Frances J. Vasquez, Raine Lefaivre-Naggi, Nan Friedley, Rose Y. Monge, John DiFusco, Cindi Neisinger, Gudelia Vaden, Debby Johnson, Kris Lovekin, Robin Longfield, Juanita E. Mantz Pelaez, Natalie Champion, Ruth Bavetta, Kamelyta Noor

Collaboration: Day 68

Naming the Dead

“Let love clasp grief lest both be drown’d” — Alfred Lord Tennyson

Friends and family tried to be there, Fred.

Just as almighty God knows every little hair on our head,
he was there with his angels to carry you to paradise, Juan.

Kimerlee Nguyen – your words will continue in the lives
of your students who will one day look at the sidewalk
cracks, the jasmine vines and see what is written there.

Jorge Casals put himself through college.
May you have a lovely and spiritual afterlife

Remembering Alice Chavdarian, a loving and generous 92 year-old
Who loved to go on adventures. May you enjoy the Everafter…

Remembering Peggy Rakestraw who loved to read
mystery novels. May you Rest In Peace

Denise Camille Buczek – loved writing birthday cards
and holiday cards, poems and lists
with her signature pen, her pulse in every word.

Championing Hispanic women’s rights always near to your heart.
Your cause considered futile in your generation never faltered.
Q.E.P.D Juanita Valdez

Jermaine Ferro, love came late to you, but at 77 you loved
with a depth and ferocity that can only earned by years of waiting.

Dear Lula, how many grandchildren
will miss your loving arms?

Dear Helen, how many neighbors and friends
already miss your cooking?

June Beverly Hill – your creamed potatoes and fried sweet corn
are the clearest summer day.

How cool you were with your OG bolo ties
and suspenders, Leo. Hats off to your sartorial splendor!

Jesus Melendez –Your birria beef stew was extraordinary
—your extended family called it legendary.
Your heavenly family awaits you at the celestial dining table.

We remember your zeal for life, Alan Merrill, with every
headbang we make to your anthem “I Love Rock’n’ Roll.”

You were a sharecropper’s son, Cornelius, and look
how far you’ve come, only to have it all taken away.

Ann, thank you for believing that all
children deserve equity and access.

Claudia Obermiller – deep-hearted country girl
is a poem and a two-step of her own.

Kious, you were, are, and always will be our angel
As the nurse fighting for others forever and ever

Cynthia Whiting – determined to spoil her granddaughter,
to sweeten the lineage, to see her babies grow.

Joseph Migliucci – we ate zeppolis, eggplant
and chicken parmesan, beef rigatoni from Mario’s
the day we recommitted — words are our matter.

Celia Marcos – one of countless Filipina nurses
who didn’t want to die a hero.

Laneeka, star of the ballroom, feet shimmering
as she dances in Eternity.

Original prompt: Go to the New York Times and write one of line of poetry for one of those memorialized in today’s article about hitting the 100,000 mark in COVID-19 deaths. This poem is open-ended and will be added to until the stay at home order is lifted.

Natalie Champion, Gudelia Vaden, Nan Friedley, Rachelle Cruz, Rose Y. Monge, David Stone, Burcu Misirli Chatham, Debby Johnson

Collaboration: Day 67

Best-Loved Imaginary Books of Spring 2020

On the blue veranda, in the white, wooden swing, armed
with a large iced tea, I am absorbed in
“Ice Dancing With Alan Rickman.”

I’d like to read, “Hunting Souvenirs:
A New Approach,” by John Prine.

By the pool reading “Bowie I’m In Heaven:
a memoir of Ziggy Stardust’s afterlife”

Looking for an entrepreneurial enterprise in case
I lose my job, I picked this up in a Little Library
box set outside a Denver, Colorado house:

“Cynical Capitalism: How to start a business
painting rocks with snarky messages.” Whatever!

“Bootlegging for Dummies part 5: get rich quick
using your bathtub” by Gudelia Vaden.

To read: “I Wish I Was What I Was Before I Became
What I Wasn’t or Was I?” By Mon Artiste Enfant

It’s a glorious rainy day, so what shall I read
today? Maybe, “Jousting with Narwhals:
A Lost History of the Elizabethan Era.”

“Our Family Predictions to 2030,” A gold-embossed
black leather book. Now mom won’t let us out the door!

Locked in my home with more possessions
than I need, I’m thumbing through my latest book,
“Finding Self Worth in Safe Sheltering.”

I’m re-reading, “How America Learned to Value and Support
All of Humanity: The History of Releasing Fear”

Reading about the serendipitous mutations of RNA
to miraculous immunity, “Life and Demise of la Coronavirus.”

Outside in the courtyard reading,
“Human Kindness in the Time of Coronavirus”

“Breathing in Lost Air,” if I could read with no fear
while longing for someone so near.

I adore memoirs with an international flair. I’m reading,
“Waiting for My Close-up” by Dr. Hydroxy Chlo Roquine;

“Trump’s Waterloo: A Brief History of the 2020 Election”;

Order to amazon.com: Please deliver to
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington DC rush –
“Epidemiology For Dummies”

Original prompt: What imaginary books would you like to read right now if they existed?

Rick Champion, Cindi Neisinger, Natalie Champion, Frances J. Vasquez, Mary Torregrossa, Burcu Misirli Chatham, Rose Y. Monge, Robin Longfield, Cati Porter, Rob McMurray, Gudelia Vaden, Juanita E. Mantz Pelaez, Frances T. Borella, Barbara Berg, Ruth Bavetta, Steve Perry