David Stone

Love Lines for Your Valentine

Still need to write your Valentine? Use lines from a local poet.

Someone seeking clarification about another’s romantic intent and who enjoys the use of lowercase letters like e. e. cummings might appreciate a line from Cindy Rinne’s “Another Park Poem.” Inspired by a walk in Riverside’s Fairmont Park, Rinne wrote, “did you try to carve the bark/ leave a heart…” Rinne lives in Redlands. Her next work is titled “Quiet Lantern.”

Courageous individuals who are willing to be vulnerable might use lines from Cati Porter’s poem “Clearly.” “Look at me/ and tell me that you want me, that you want to heart/ the distance and that you cannot in the object see/ a flaw, and though I am (flawed) I am for you, and/ there is a small tight thought that is wound in me,/ that knowing that you love, a lightning, a lightning/ on the inside: so that you see; so that you know.” Porter lives in Riverside. Her latest book “My Skies of Small Horses” comes out this month.

Seasoned lovers may like to use lines from “Litany” from Claremont poet Lucia Galloway’s latest chapbook “The Garlic Peelers:” “O love, what is your wish?/ We’ve half again as much to say as we have said./ Set down the goblet, and the carmine wine/ sheets down its sides to pool in the bowl./ Let’s drink our words instead of hoarding them.”

Sweethearts who remind you of characters from the The Big Bang Theory should appreciate lines from Marsha Schuh’s “You and Me in Binary.” Appropriately published in the computer textbook Schuh co-wrote with Stanford Rowe, Schuh imagines a world based on four, considers the dominance of the decimal in our world and closes her poem with pondering the numerical effects of becoming a couple: “Then we unlearn it all /learn to speak binary,/ a better way,/ two as opposed to eight or ten,/ the most significant bit,/ the least significant bit/ one-two, on-off, you-we,/ binary.” Schuh resides in Ontario.

Lovers in a more ambiguous relationship may resonate with lines from the Palm Springs poet and writer Ruth Nolan. In her forthcoming book, “Ruby Mountain,” she writes, “shouldn’t I pretend you did it for love/ shouldn’t I believe it was a mistake/ shouldn’t I wonder why not/ shouldn’t I wonder why. . . .”

Those pained may appreciate the words of the title persona in Nikia Chaney’s “Sis Fuss.” The poem “Syllogizing Sis Fuss” closes: “we all hurt. And if we all/ hurt then we all hurt/ each other and the next.” Chaney lives in Rialto.

Jennifer and Chad Sweeney from Redlands are a couple, who are both accomplished poets. Jennifer provides profundity and striking imagery in her book “Salt Memory.” She writes, “As water poured into the heart flows out the palms, so does love return, as thirst, as satiation—the shape the lost ocean has carved onto the salt brick desert.”

With characteristic quirky humor in his book “White Martini for the Apocalypse,” Chad writes, “It was love./ She taught me to drive her bulldozer./ I taught her to forge my signature!”

In earthier lines from his poem “Effects,” first published in Caliban, Chad writes, “The best sex in the world happens during conjugal visits. I’ve gotten myself into prison twice, just to have it. That’s why I’m calling. Happy Valentine’s Day!” Chad Sweeney teaches creative writing at Cal State San Bernardino.

The longing and transformative power of love comes through in the closing lines of Judy Kronenfeld’s “Listen” from her forthcoming collection, “Bird Flying Through the Banquet,” 
“Let your eyes rest/ on my face. Arrest me/ in turn. I will burst/ from the seed/ of myself.” Kronenfeld is professor emerita from UCR.

Ontario poet Tim Hatch gives words to the desire to comfort one’s dearest when he or she is gone: “Scatter my memory where my memories are sweetest. Gulls cry, salt breeze carries me away. When you’re there you can breathe deep, take me inside and remember.”

For a wider array of classic poems to use for Valentine’s Day, search the Poetry Foundation’s website for “Poems for Valentines” or the poets.org site for “love poems.”

(Never-ending?) “Cognitive Passes” by Judy Kronenfeld

I reminded myself, this past week, just how faulty first drafts of poems can be, when, a few days after I wrote it, I looked again at a new poem I had been somewhat excited about. As I set to work trying to remedy the poem’s flaws, feeling that sense of chagrin that so often accompanies early, uncritical excitement, some part of me thought Be kind to yourself, be patient. It so often takes numerous “cognitive passes” over the developing draft. The idea that any work of the imagination, intellect, or both, gradually gets worked into shape has helped me so much, both in teaching—of expository writing, creative writing, and critical writing on literature—and in my own writing of all of these kinds, and I think it has helped students, too. I recall encountering inexperienced students in composition classes, whose underlying idea of the essay was that it should spring whole from their minds, like Athena from Zeus’s forehead, and who were stymied by that belief. The inception of an essay, poem or story (if not the actual beginning of the finished work) may be more like trying to grab the tail of a dream as it scampers off in the light of dawn. My advice: grab anything you can, and set it provisionally down. Don’t abandon it because it’s utterly incomplete, its purpose and potential development obscure. A will lead to B, then maybe, yes, a cross-out of A, but B leading to C, D and E, along with many indirections that may find directions out (to apply Hamlet’s words to our purpose). The notion of “cognitive passes” recognizes that there is just so much the mind can take in at one time, it reminds us to be kind and patient with ourselves. Successive layers of underbrush may have to be cleared away before one can see the shape of the ground. In writing an essay, sentence grammar may have to be clarified in order for the writer to understand her own thinking about cause and effect. Diction may have to become more exact before the writer really senses what she is writing about, and once diction and grammar are more precise, the larger structure the whole should have may become more clear. And there’s no necessary order of march. What’s heartening is how improvement in any aspect throws another necessary step into relief. Time is the writer’s friend in this process, although, so often, especially for students, it’s hard to build it in. Even a few days between messy rough draft and the next try can radically improve the writer’s perception, and start her on the path to becoming her own editor.

There is a sort of opposite to this messy, but ultimately cumulative process. Sometimes, when we are struggling with something we have written before it approaches wholeness (I have experienced this with poems), we can feel so ungrounded that the structure, or an image, or the rhythm or sound of a phrase appears to need changing every time we look at the work, and we find ourselves re-configuring one of these elements, and reverting to the status quo ante the very next day, and we keep doing this over a period of time, flailing. The mind is so flexible; it is all too easy to see the “rightness” of conflicting possibilities at different times. Maybe this is all part of the process—of poems, at least—finally a process of not having it every which way, of eliminating some paths, as well as of preserving the mystery and richness of the ones we choose.

It is amazing and intriguing to me, that the process of rereading one’s own work (especially if one is lucky enough to be able to put it away for some time between reads) seems to glean continued insights, new nuances. I find this to be true as I reread the new poetry manuscript I have begun to send out. Every change (such as a recent removal of some of the poems) has the effect of highlighting an aspect of the manuscript that was not quite fully illuminated for me previously, of throwing something else into salience. At the moment, thankfully, that new nuance I perceive feels as if it enriches the manuscript, rather than making me want to edit it further. For the moment, at least, I am at peace.

Theft by Judy Kronenfeld

I hope there is a special place among the lower circles of hell, perhaps among the serpents and the rivers of blood, for the thief who stole my husband’s suitcase and briefcase from our own driveway at the end of May, as we were getting ready to drive to the airport for a quickly arranged flight to New York where my cousin’s 48-year-old son had just died of a rare bone cancer he had fought with uncommon grace and optimism.

“Where are my suitcase and briefcase?” my usually calm husband exclaimed in near panic, coming back into the house. As if I might have gone outside and taken them in for safe-keeping. I wish. A well-trained New Yorker in origin, who knew how to carry her bookbag and purse in a way to prevent theft or groping on the crowded subway she rode to high school, and whose similar habits avoided the purse-slitting incurred by her companions in a market in Toluca, Mexico, I had always warned my husband not to leave anything on the driveway, even for the few seconds required to go back into the house for forgotten car keys (and yes, those seconds did wind up being distracted minutes). “You were right this time,” he said.

We had to go to New York. So my husband spoke to the police I had called, while trying to repack his pills. And I ran into the bedroom and threw clothes for him, in record minutes, into a small carry-on. We made it to Ontario with a half-hour to spare since I usually err on the side of allowing too much time to get to the airport. And aside from trying to compose a list of everything that was missing, and calling our insurance company, and my sending up a silent thank you to the powers-that-be that it wasn’t my suitcase, which I had not yet taken outside that morning, that had been stolen (in which case repacking in six minutes would have been a pipe dream), we shelved this annoyance in the midst of a tragedy, as we entered the world of a family devastated by the loss of an adult child, and a brother—still far too young—a loss putting material losses into the perspective they deserve.

Still, when we came back home, glad we had been able to offer what little support we could to my cousin’s family, the annoyance felt increasingly annoying. The thief—or someone connected to the thief—had tried to use a check from our account (we had forgotten the checkbook when we made our list) for a considerable sum at a local store, so we had to cancel ours and open a new checking account. And, fearing some private information could have been found among our things, we cancelled our credit cards, but the replacement cards, although the package was listed as delivered by UPS, were nowhere to be found. At that point, a sense of being watched or targeted made me feel almost as uncomfortable in my own house as I had been when a roof rat took up residence inside for almost two weeks the previous summer. It turned out, according to the UPS person who successfully delivered yet another set of replacement cards a few days later, that the previous guy had never even been to our house, but had misdelivered packages all over our neighborhood, even dropping a pile of them on the street. A weird form of small solace?

It has taken several weeks, but we are emerging from the woods, are pretty much finished, we think, with all those calls to banks and creditors, those online morasses when we try to change our information—all of which made me coin a new acronym: NEWTWIST (Nothing Ever Works The Way It’s Supposed To).

I think now of a friend whose insurance company was less cooperative than ours turned out to be, and who gave up her claim; some valuable jewelry was stolen while her house was tented for termites (!), but the insurance people wanted pictures.

I think of what it might feel like to be less middle class, less able to deal with the re-arrangements of our finances, the collection and calculation of receipts for the insurance company, the replacement of essentials lost, or to have no insurance, no recourse, few or no “essentials.”

I think of what it might be like to feel targeted or vulnerable all the time.

Contributor Biographies

Cynthia Anderson is a writer and editor living in Yucca Valley, CA. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she has received poetry awards from the Santa Barbara Arts Council and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Her collaborations with photographer Bill Dahl are published in the book, Shared Visions.

Lee Balan was the first editor and art director for Beyond Baroque Magazine in Venice, CA.  His poems and stories have been featured in several magazines including Phantom Seed, Sun-Runner, and Storylandia. He was the facilitator for the Tenderloin Writer’s Workshop in San Francisco. His background in mental health has been a major influence on his work. Lee has been the featured poet at several events and venues including the Palm Springs Art Museum.  Recently, Lee self published his first novel Alien Journal.

Nancy Scott Campbell has been a desert hiker and resident for more than twenty years.  She has been a mediator, has taught English as a second Language, is a physical therapist,  and is delighted with the workshops of the Inlandia Institute.

With their girls grown and independent, Marcyn Del Clements and her husband, Richard, have more time to pursue their favorite activities: birding, butterfly and dragonfly watching, and fly-fishing. Marcy is published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Appalachia, Eureka Literary Magazine, Flyway, frogpond, Hollins Critic, Literary Review, Lyric, Sijo West, Snowy Egret, Wind, and others.

Mike Cluff is a fulltime English and Creative Writing instructor at Norco College. He has 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.

Rachelle Cruz is from the Bay Area but currently lives and writes in Riverside, CA.  She has taught creative writing, poetry, and performance to young people in New York City, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Riverside. She hosts “The Blood-Jet Writing Hour” Radio Show on Blog Talk Radio. She is an Emerging Voices Fellow and a Kundiman Fellow, she is working towards her first collection of poems.

Sheela Sitaram Free (“Doc Free”) was born in Mumbai, India and has spent equal halves of her life in India and in the United States. Her BA in English Literature and Language, MA in English and American Literature and Language, MA in Hindi, PhD in the Contemporary American Novel-novels of John Updike-and her twenty four years of teaching all across the United States in Universities, colleges, and community colleges reveal her lifelong passion for the power of words, especially in the context of world literature and writing. Her collection of poetry entitled “Of Fractured Clocks, Bones and Windshields was published in February 2009 and nominated for the Association of Asian American Studies as well as the Asian American Workshop awards in 2010. She has been writing for over 20 years, but it was the Inland Empire that inspired and motivated her to publish; she has simply loved being a part of it for 9 years now. It is home to her and she draws a great deal of material from it in her poetry.

Karen Greenbaum-Maya is a clinical psychologist in Claremont, California. She has been writing since she was nine. In another life, she was a German Literature major and read poetry for credit. She has placed poems and photographs in many publications, including Off the Coast, Umbrella, Abyss & Apex, qarrtsiluni, Poemeleon, Lilliput Review, In Posse Review, and Sow’s Ear Poetry Review. She was nominated for the 2010 Pushcart Prize. Her first chapbook, Eggs Satori, received an Honorable Mention in Pudding House Publications’ 2010 competition, and will be published in 2011.

Valerie Henderson is an MFA Fiction student at CSUSB. More of her work can be found in The Sand Canyon Review.

Edward Jones is a graduate of UC Riverside’s MFA program and has been published in Faultline, Crate, Mosaic, and Inlandia: A Literary Journey.

Judy Kronenfeld is the author of four poetry collections including “Ghost Nurseries,” a Finishing Line chapbook (2005) and “Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths”, winner of the Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize (2008). Her poems, as well as the occasional short story and personal essay have appeared in many print and online journals including Calyx, Cimarron Review, The American Poetry Journal, Fox Chase Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Natural Bridge, The Hiram Poetry Review, Passager, Poetry International, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Stirring, The Women’s Review of Books, and The Pedestal, as well as in a dozen and a half anthologies or text books, including Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California (Greenhouse Review Press/Alcatraz Editions, 2008), Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease (Kent State University Press, 2009), and Love over 60: An Anthology of Women’s Poems (Mayapple Press, 2010). She is a lecturer Emerita—after twenty-five years of teaching in the Creative Writing Department at UC Riverside. Her new poetry collection, “Shimmer,” has just been accepted by WordTech Editions.

Associate Fiction Editor Ruth Nolan, a former wildland firefighter and native of San Bernardino and the Mojave Desert, teaches Creative Writing and Literature at College of the Desert in Palm Desert. She is a poet and prose writer with works forthcoming in New California Writing, 2011 (Heyday, 2011) and in Sierra Club Magazine. She is editor of No Place for a Puritan: The Literature of California’s Deserts (Heyday, 2009) and a contributor to Inlandia: A Literary Journey (Heyday, 2006) She has collaborated on two film projects, “Escape to Reality: 24 hrs @ 24 fps” with the UCR-California Museum of Photography (2008), is a writer for a film in progress, Solar Gold: the Killing of Kokopelli (2011), and represents our region’s deserts in the “Nature Dreaming: Rediscovering California’s Landscapes” public radio series sponsored by Santa Clara University and the California Council for the Humanities (2011) She lives in Palm Desert.

Cindy Rinne has lived in the Inland Empire for 29 years. She is an artist and poet. Her poetry includes nature inspiration, parts of overheard conversations, observations on walks, life events, and her response to her own artwork and the works of others.

Except for a short-lived adventure to Long Beach, CA, Heather Rinne has lived in the Inland Empire her entire life. She grew up in San Bernardino and attended college at Cal Poly Pomona where she received a BFA in 2008. She  loved and still loves exploring the art community in the downtown Arts Colony. A fire took her parents’ home, the home where her childhood memories lived, in the fall of 2003. Even with the unexpected chance to move, her parents decided to rebuild on the same lot. Back in the place where she grew up, she makes new memories. She currently works as a Graphic Designer and Photographer out of her home office and dances at a studio in Redlands. She enjoys Redlands because it has a lot of history and is only a short trip to the desert, the city, the mountains, and the ocean.

Ash Russell is an MFA candidate at CSUSB. She has been telling stories since she learned how to speak and writing since she learned to string the alphabet together. She relearns regularly that the magnitude of space is emotionally devastating.

Mae Wagner is firmly rooted in the Inland Empire area and sees Inlandia stories everywhere just waiting to be told. She says, “writing has always been a passion, but was largely relegated to the back burner while she focused on raising a family, earning a living, and going to school.” Over the years, as a longtime Inland Empire resident, she has written for a public relations firm, the Riverside Chamber of Commerce, The Chino Champion newspaper, and had several columns published in the Op-Ed page of the Press-Enterprise when it was locally owned, including a noted investigate journalism series focused on a landmark environmental case involving the Stringfellow Acid Pits in Glen Avon, just west of Riverside. She currently writes a column for her home town paper in Hettinger, North Dakota and is enjoying being a member of the Inlandia Creative Writing Workshops, which she has attended since its opening session in the summer of 2008.

As a child, Rayme Waters spent some time each year at her grandmother’s house in Rancho Mirage and watched the desert cities grow up around it. Rayme’s stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Dzanc Best of the Web and have been published most recently in The Meadowland Review and The Summerset Review.