Two Stories by Nan Friedley

Still Hungry for More Thrills & Chills?

We will continue to run a new story each day this week. These stories were written at an Inlandia workshop for those wanting to write for Ghost Walk.

***

The Last Encore

Venue: Back to the Grind

Characters: Master of Ceremonies, Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Anne Sexton

Master of C: Welcome to Ghost Walk’s Dead Poets’ open mic night. This evening we are pleased to present three confessional poets who are making a special appearance, back from the dead, to share some of their most memorable work. Our first poet, Sylvia Plath, in a state of severe depression resorted to suicide by oven in 1963, welcome back to our world. Give it up for Sylvia.

(MC and audience applause, cheers)

Sylvia Plath:   Thank you so much for the warm welcome. I will be reading an excerpt from Lady Lazarus a poem that feels particularly relatable this evening.

Lady Lazarus

Dying

Is an art, like everything else

I do it exceptionally well

 

I do it so it feels like hell.

I do it so it feels real.

I guess you could say I’ve a call.

 

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.

It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.

It’s the theatrical

 

Come back in broad day

To the same place, the same face, the same brute

Amused shout

 

‘a miracle’

That knocks me out

There is a charge

 

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge

For the hearing of my heart

It really goes.

 

And there is a charge, a very large charge

For a word or touch

Or a bit of blood

 

Ash, ash

You poke and stir

Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—

 

Out of the ash

I rise with my red hair

And I eat men like air.

 

(MC and audience applause, cheers)

 

Master of C:   Thank you Sylvia. We sure do miss you. Wish you could have stayed with us to write more amazing poems. Our next poet, John Berryman, decided to end his life by jumping off the Washington Avenue bridge on the campus of University of Minnesota in 1972. Let’s welcome John to our stage to perform a poem from his Dream Song book.

(MC and audience applause. cheers)

John B:   Thanks for bringing me back for an encore reading this evening. I’ve chosen Dream Song 14:

Life, Friends, is Boring

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so

After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,

We ourselves flash and yearn

and moreover, my mother told me as a boy

(repeatedly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored

means you have no

 

Inner resources,’ I conclude now that I have no

inner resources, because I am heavy bored

people bore me

literature bores me with its plights and gripes

as bad as Achilles

 

Who loves people and valiant art, which bores me

And the tranquil hills, and gin, look like a dog

And somehow a dog

Has taken itself and its tail considerably away

Into mountains or sea or sky, leaving

behind me, wag

 

(MC and audience applause, cheers)

 

Master of C:   Thank you Mr. Berryman for your many Dream Songs we enjoyed through the years. It was so inspiring for you to lend voice to your words. Our final poet of the night is Anne Sexton. When life became too overwhelming for Anne, she locked herself in the garage with her car running to eventually die of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1974. We are so happy you have returned to join us for open mic night. Please welcome Anne Sexton.

(MC and audience applause, cheers)

Anne Sexton:   Thank you. It is so nice to see so many young people in the audience who are interested in poetry. Although it may not seem like it, writing was a source of comfort to me as I hope it is for you. I will be reading:

Waiting to Die

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember

I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage

then the almost unnamable lust returns.

 

Even then I have nothing against life

I know well the grass blades you mention

the furniture you have placed under the sun.

 

But suicides have a special language.

They want to know which tools

They never ask why.

 

Twice I have so simply declared myself

have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy

have taken on his craft, his magic.

 

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,

Warmer than oil or water

I have rested drooping at the mouth-hole.

 

I did not think of my body at needlepoint.

Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.

 

(MC and audience applause, cheers)

 

Master of C:   Thanks Anne for sharing your powerful poem with us. Perhaps your words will bring strength and courage to those in need. I want to thank all of our dead poets this evening for giving us a glimpse into their worlds. Let’s bring them back on stage one more time.

(MC and audience claps and cheers for encore, but no dead poets return to stage)

Master of C:   I’m afraid they are not coming back. They are lost to us now except on pages. Thanks for joining us tonight. Be safe going home.

***

Coveted

Venue: Annex

Characters: Homeless Hank, Eloise the Librarian, College girl/News Anchor, Boyfriend/News Anchor

Props: shopping cart, garbage bags, cane, pillow, sleeping bag, two microphones

Hank:       I like to hang out in the library parking lot…park my portable home on wheels in the back. I’m a collector. Wandering around the city I’ve found some gems. You’d probably be surprised by what I have in my cart. I’m a people watcher too…especially like pretty young girls…ones with long hair and longer legs.

Eloise:       I’ve been watching him from my office window in the library. He leers at young girls, drools when he sees one he really likes. Disgusting…dirty letch. I wonder what’s in his cart…curious if he has anything valuable.

(young college age girl walks by)

Hank:       It’s my lucky day! She’s heading to my secret hideout. I’d like to keep her warm tonight. Maybe just talk about my collections. I could give her a gift.

(Hank follows the girl, pushing his cart)

Eloise:       There he goes. She’s not paying any attention to him… with those earbuds and texting, she doesn’t even hear him. I better tag along. I wonder what he’s up to. I’m a little slower these days. (walks with a limp using her cane)

(Girl waves to young man by Mission Inn service entrance)

College girl: Sorry I’m late. Couldn’t find a place to park.

Boyfriend:   That’s o.k. I just got off…big party in the Music Room.

(Girl and boyfriend hug and walk off together)

Hank:       I was so close. She would have been a lot of fun. Guess I’ll just call it a day.

(Hank gathers his grimy pillow and sleeping bag from his cart, curls up on the annex steps and goes to sleep)

(Eloise waits till she is sure Hank is asleep…beats Hank with her cane. She walks away with Hank’s cart, smiling)

Eloise:       Serves him right. Tomorrow there will be an article in the Press-Enterprise about a homeless man found beaten to death. The police will request information about a bloody cane next to the body. I won’t be calling any time soon. (crazy laugh)

Girl News

Anchor:   On December 21st, the longest day of the year, is National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day. It started in 1990 to remember those homeless who have died on the streets in our communities. Each night, over 51,000 homeless sleep on the streets of LA.

Boy News

Anchor:   There is no official tracking of the number of homeless deaths. In LA county when no relative comes forward to claim the body, the person is cremated. In 2012, all the remains were buried in one unmarked grave…1,756 forgotten souls.

Three Stories by Jane O’Shields-Hayner and Angelina O’Shields-Hayner

Still Hungry for More Thrills & Chills?

We will continue to run a new story each day this week. These stories were written at an Inlandia workshop for those wanting to write for Ghost Walk.

***

The Halloween Birthday

By Jane O’Shields-Hayner

NARRATOR: “The cemetery was alive. It was October 31st and the Dia de los Muertos decorations were on many of the graves and in the aisles between the graves. It was a happy day for Cecil. It was his birthday. It was long ago when his day of birth had come and passed, more than a century now, and the past fifteen years had been strange for him.

Once, as a younger man, in his fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties, he had spent his days eagerly busy in his many pursuits. He owned a produce company, and his day began before dawn, when he met the trucks and the trains loaded with fresh farm fruits and vegetables. They arrived from all around North, Central and South American, meeting their last destination in Cecil’s warehouse before they were washed, shined, boxed and appeared in the neighborhood grocery stores. Cecil worked hard and left his office in mid-afternoon. It was his choice, since he was the boss.

Everyday he had gone to the golf course to play a few rounds with his friends, or to the horse stable, where his daughter, Jane, his only child, rode everyday after school. He cared for her horse, his horses, and all their feed and tack, and he delighted in the happiness he shared with her there, and with the beautiful animals that had become members of their family.

The walk he now took from the cemetery to his daughter’s house was only three blocks, and he walked this nightly, although he wasn’t sure why. Once, he had found his old Ford truck sitting in front of her house, and remembered that he needed to check the oil. He lifted the hood, secured it with the support bar, hung the cage-covered light bulb, illuminating the truck’s engine; and he was taking care of his business when the neighbor’s daughter started screaming.”

CECIL: “Geeeee Mooneee! (he exclaimed) What’s wrong with her? He put down the hood, mumbling to himself and walked away.”

CECIL: “Jane?”

NARRATOR: “He called his daughter’s name and then became restless. The stars were still out, but an orange glow had appeared from the east, illuminating the yellow fringe of leaves on the Sycamore tree. Suddenly he was very tired. He began to walk back to the cemetery, and then he forgot. He forgot every time he remembered. Yet he still remembered that he forgot. The words: transient, ischemic and dementia held places of sadness in his memory. It was a partially forgotten sadness, and he could no longer understand it, but the low-down feeling lingered, still.

He loved the old cemetery, and it seemed that everyone there was always celebrating his birthday. Whenever he left it, a longing set in that was powerful enough to change the direction of his walk, every time, every night that he could remember.

Birthday guests were sitting on the graves, gathered into groups. Boxes of apples and pears, winter oranges, squash and grapefruits lay on the ground, completely covering some of the burial spots. How odd. “It must be the farmers’ market night here, tonight,” thought Cecil. “Yes, it must be!”

He knew all the farmers by name. Yes, he would visit them too. As always, he would first visit Jane, then maybe he would walk to the stables and feed the horses. He loved them so, even though the pain in his knees was a result of his loyalty to the white horse, May, the one that fell with him again and again and again. The black horse was Jane’s and she was elderly now, in her thirties. She had been a beautiful, high-strutting Paso Fino mare in her time. Now she was a family treasure, cared for and pampered. He would take her an apple, and a carrot for May, of course.

Cecil picked the treats from boxes of food on a nearby grave and tried to pay Mrs. Sanchez a dollar each for the two of them, but she seemed to not even hear what he said. He dropped two one-dollar bills in her lap, and they lay on the white, embroidered apron she wore. She was looking away, but when she glanced back at her lap she shrieked, and called out: “Jose! Miguel, aqui! Aqui! Andele!” Then she stood up and the two dollar bills fell from her apron to the grave below her.

The lights were out in Jane’s small, blue house on 12th Street. Cecil thought he would go down to the stable and find her there.

Two young boys stood staring at the cemetery.”

JOSEPH: “Morris, I dare ya to walk in there!”

NARRATOR: “Joseph was a black-haired boy, wearing a zombie mask and dancing; showing off his best hip-hop steps.

Morris, a boy with curly blond hair and a white sheet over his clothing, stood at the edge of the graveyard. The toes of his leather shoes touched the grass on the manicured lawn and his heels touched the pavement of the street.”

MORRIS: “I’m already in there!”

NARRATOR: “Morris shouted back.

Families knelt on the graves, placing photographs, toys, foods, and Halloween pumpkins all around them. They were starting early. Dia de los Muertos didn’t occur for another day, but many families began decorating on Halloween, because they enjoyed it.”

JOSEPH: “Hey.”

JOSEPH: “It’s not even scaarryyy! Look, everybody’s mama is here! Nobody here looks creepy at all, mostly just us!”

NARRATOR: “Morris gazed toward the bloody stains on his ripped bed sheet. His mother had splattered red paint across the sheet and cut holes in it for Morris’ arms and head.

Cecil loved children and he laughed softly when he passed the two boys in costume.”

CECIL: “Ha, ha, ha…”

MORRIS: “Did you hear that?”

JOSEPH: “Hear what?”

MORRIS: (quietly) “Did you hear that laugh?”

JOSEPH: “You’re craaaazzzy, Morris!”

MORRIS: “No I’m not.”

JOSEPH: “Yes you are!”

MORRIS: “Don’t make me wanna punch ya!”

JOSEPH: “My mama will tan your hide if ya do!”

NARRATOR: “Cecil laughed again, remembering something he couldn’t place.”

CECIL: “That’s just what my mama said!”

NARRATOR: “The red paint on the white sheet, the words the boys used, the shoes they wore, shabby, dry, worn out leather, seams busting out and strings hanging loose, all of it was like visiting an old friend, to Cecil.”

MORRIS: (in a flat, serious voice) “I heard it again.”

NARRATOR: “Now Morris’ voice was shaking and Joseph had stopped dancing and stood like a tombstone, holding his breath.”

JOSEPH: “I heard it too.”

NARRATOR: “Klop, klop, click, klop…klop, klop, click, klop….The Cinderella carriage, pulled by a shining white horse was walking down the street. Inside, four costumed riders laughed and sang “Werewolves of London,” hitting the wrong notes as often as the right ones.

Cecil looked up and saw the white horse, and recognized it as May, his stumbling, but loyal white mare.

He stepped up his pace and broke into a trot. He was amazed that his knees didn’t hurt. At one point, he remembered using a cane, then a walker, then he was unable to walk at all, even after the doctor talked him into his second round of double knee replacement surgeries.

That was when his memories became like a dense, rainy day fog, when his night walks became strange, when everyday was his birthday, when people shrieked when they saw him, and sometimes when they didn’t, when he only stood near.”

CECIL: “I’ll catch that mare. I’ll take her to the barn and brush ‘er down, give her some hay and oats and mix in a little sweet feed to make her happy.”

NARRATOR: “He trotted toward the white horse and when he got closer he slowed to a walk, so he wouldn’t frighten her. Cecil didn’t notice the carriage, the harness, the riders or the driver. His focus was May, his white horse. “How did she get here, right on the street,” he asked himself.

The horse was walking slowly and the passengers in the carriage were still singing: “ahhhooooohhh, Werewolves of London, ahhhooooohhh…” when Cecil grabbed the reigns and gently stopped the forward direction of the entire entourage; horse, driver, carriage, and passengers.”

DRIVER: “Hey, what’s wrong with you, Sally? Git, come on, ha! Cooommme on!”

NARRATOR: “Cecil held the reins in his left hand and began to guide the horse in a U-turn toward his barn. The driver was perplexed, now losing any cool she may have once had, and shouting at the horse. “You bag of bones, you turn back hah!”

The revelers in the carriage had stopped singing and looked afraid. One woman screamed, “Let me out!”

The boys standing on the edge of the graveyard watched the scene with their eyes like large marbles, protruding from their faces, and the families decorating graves stopped what they were doing and watched.

Cecil began to trot along with the white horse.”

CECIL: “I’ll get-cha home, girl. That’s right, go on home.”

JANE: (sitting on the ground of a grave) “Daddy! I’m here. Come here. Daddy, please, now!”

NARRATOR: “Cecil dropped the reigns and began the walk that always drew him back, and when he did, he came upon a grave that was decorated with black cats and orange ribbon. Jane was sitting on the grave, holding an orange and black birthday cake on her lap. More candles than he had ever seen burned dangerously on the top of the cake. The entire grave was illuminated.”

JANE: “Daddy, I know you’re here. I brought watermelon and salt, just the way you like it, and your golf clubs, your blue ribbons and trophies from your riding days, and I brought long-neck beer, too.”

NARRATOR: “Just outside the cemetery, on the street, the carriage driver now stood beside the horse, petting her. The riders stood, shaken, on the sidewalk.”

CARRIAGE DRIVER: “They say there is a wandering ghost here. It’s a man whose birthday was Halloween. That’s his grave.” (She lifts her arm and points with a long index finger straight toward Jane and the flaming cake)

NARRATOR: “She pointed with a raised arm and long index finger, right to the spot where Jane sat, alone, holding a flaming cake, burning with many candles.

The two young boys now stood at the edge of the grave, and Cecil walked up, bent forward, kissed Jane on the cheek, and spoke.”

CECIL: “Well, I’ll be dad-gummed if that’s not the purtiest cake and the most candles I’ve ever seen.”

NARRATOR: “The families who sat on the other graves, the carriage driver and all the riders, and the two young boys all joined in when Jane began to sing.”

JANE: “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Daddy. Happy birthday to you!”

NARRATOR: “When the song ended, Cecil and the boys all bent forward and blew out the blaze of candles. A cloud of thick, waxy smoke blew over the cemetery and the many ofrendas that decorated the graves.

Cecil looked at the boys. The blond, curly-haired boy looked up at him and smiled.”

CECIL: “Well, I’ll be darned!”

NARRATOR: “The black-haired boy walked to a grave where a family laughed and toasted Cecil’s birthday and Morris walked underneath Cecil’s long winter coat and disappeared.

Jane cut the cake and Cecil sat on the ground, leaning on a tombstone. Only the name on it was visible. It read Cecil Morris O’Shields, October 31, 1907-October 25, 1999. Draped on the gravestone were a pair of white riding chaps and a bridle. On the ground before it was the photograph of a white horse, with a curly-haired man riding her. He was smiling and petting the horse’s shining neck.

The carriage now moved smoothly through the night street, the occupants were now laughing and retelling the tale shrieking and laughing.”

RIDERS: “Did you see him? Was he scary? I’ll bet this was all an act, just part of the carriage ride, part of the show, yeah, that’s right.”

NARRATOR: “A whoosh of air had extinguished the candles on the cake that Jane held, just as it always did. Now, for all the living world to see, Jane sat alone on the grave, telling tales of her childhood and reading stories she had written about her family. No one was apparently there to listen, just the fruit, the salt shaker, and the long-neck beer, but she smiled, offering up a slice of birthday cake on an orange napkin to whoever passed her father’s grave, on this night, on Halloween, on his birthday.”

***

Ghost Angels

By Jane O’Shields-Hayner

Setting: a dark corner of downtown Riverside

Characters: Narrator, Sound Effects Person, Kevin, Teacher

Most of these roles can be shared by the same cast members, ie: narrator could do sound effects and Kevin’s voice.

NARRATOR: “The street corner was dark. Night sounds rose from several directions (SOUND EFFECTS, THE BACKGROUND SOUND EFFECTS DO NOT OVERWHELM THE NARRATOR’S VOICE)

Up the street, a drum’s beat measured time (DRUM SOUNDS) and electric guitars played rock and roll (GUITAR RIFF). A singer’s voice floated into the night, flat and struggling to catch up (VOICE, BLUESY TONES). Tires screeched (TIRES SCREECHING) from the distance and from nearby the rattle of ceramic dishes (DISHES SOUND) being loaded into a tub mixed with the drums and guitar, where the Mission Inn restaurants were now closing.”

TEACHER: “This is where I come to hear them.”

ACTION: The woman speaking wore athletic pants, a yoga top and a zip-up hoodie. She fidgeted with an iPhone, pushing buttons, making adjustments, holding it close to her ear.

TEACHER: “I hear them at night, (PAUSE) Listen! First you’ll hear the runners’ rhythm.”

ACTION: She held the phone facing the direction of her gaze.

TEACHER: (whispering) “Then you’ll notice a softer sound …Shhhhhh….. Listen! (she holds her index finger to her lips) Oh, my! (she drops the arm holding the phone to her side) It’s going to be a late run tonight. On hot days they come later. (she smiles) I guess the sidewalk is too hot for ghost angels.”

NARRATOR: “It was a hot night. The sun had set, but heat still radiated from the concrete sidewalk and the asphalt on the streets.”

TEACHER: “I was his teacher. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and I was assigned by the school district to teach him at home. He was remarkable. He was excited about everything he learned. When I assigned reading a book by a particular author, I would return in three days and he would have read not one, but two or three! It was delightful to make lesson plans for him. Our classes were more like graduate seminars than high school, and he was only fifteen!”

ACTION: She turns and cocks her head to move one ear in the direction she was looking and she stares motionless for a full minute, then begins to talk.

TEACHER: “He was an excellent student, and an athlete. He was a runner. He ran more than two hours a day, up through the rocky climb of Mount Rubidoux, through the scrubby foothills of Box Springs Mountain. He ran through the neighborhoods and streets of downtown on the days when he ran without his track team. On those days he ran with Lady… oh yes!”

ACTION: She stopped and looked directly toward the listeners.

TEACHER: “I haven’t told you about Lady… Lady was a stray dog rescued by Kevin’s family. They saw her roaming wild and hiding in bushes on the high school athletic field. They tried to catch her, offering food and affection, but she was so frightened she wouldn’t come near. Kevin and his dad took sleeping bags and camped out on the field, where they watched her roam the area in the dark of night, searching for bits of trash and discarded wrappers, hoping to turn up something to fill her hungry belly. She was thin and walked with her head low and her tail tucked tightly between her back legs. Fearing an imminent attack, she stayed in a self-protected posture.

Finally, Kevin and his dad asked The Animal Control officers for help. They brought a big cage to the field and placed fresh meat inside it. Kevin and his Dad continued sleeping on the ground and waiting. For two nights the dog came near but wouldn’t go in. On the third night, hunger won over her fear and she walked into the cage, tripped the trap and was caught.

Lady stayed at the pound for one week and Kevin and his family visited her every day. When they were able to bring Lady home, she immediately became family.

When Kevin began having headaches they were crippling, but he tried to ignore them. Schoolwork needed to be done, running became difficult, due to the pain, but he didn’t stop. The joy of flying, face first, into the wind, parting the breeze with his arms, shoulders and legs, and becoming part of the fast-moving world he saw to all sides, drew him to lace his running shoes up daily and let his strong legs loose, flying him into the hills.

One night while he was sleeping, he couldn’t ignore the nausea and pain inside his skull any longer, and he fell from the bed to the floor, unable to move. Lady was, of course, lying on the floor beside his bed, and when he fell she knew Kevin was in danger. She sniffed his breath for clues, then ran downstairs to the room where his parents slept and she barked until they awoke.”

Sound effects: (ARF! ARF!)

TEACHER: “She grabbed the sleeve of his mom’s gown between her teeth and pulled to summon them out of bed. Upstairs they found Kevin unconscious and called 911, then an ambulance came and took him to the hospital.

When I taught Kevin in his home, we sat at his dining room table, and Lady lay on the floor beside us. She was the size of a small German Shepard, with long, shining black hair and a bit of brown around her face. She won my heart in no time, and I agreed with Kevin’s family, that she was possibly the smartest dog I had ever known. She actually spoke. She used her voice in a low volume howl and pointed her nose toward whatever it was she wanted or was trying to tell you.

After teaching Kevin for a year, his medical appointments grew more frequent and his parents put him on home schooling to cope with the erratic schedule. I heard from him occasionally. When he had brain tumor surgery, I visited him in the hospital. That was the last time I would see him.”

PAUSE: The teacher looks down, then straightens her clothing and begins to talk again.

TEACHER: “Ten years later, Kevin’s mother wrote to me that he had passed away and they invited me to attend his memorial service. I learned that Lady had taken ill when Kevin went into the hospital that last time, and I learned that she died three days before him.”

ACTION: The woman stopped, took a deep breath, and ran her hands under her eyes, brushing tears from her cheeks.

TEACHER: “I was standing here one October night, several years ago, and I heard the fast-paced footsteps of a person running, clearly coming toward me from behind. I didn’t think anything of it, and only when the steps grew close did I move to the edge of the sidewalk and glance behind me to let the runner pass. To my amazement there was no one there, just the footsteps, clear and crisp. They passed me by, and I felt a whoosh of air, as they continued and moved out of my range of hearing. Then I heard a faint, familiar voice, calling ‘Lady! Lady!’ The calls became distant, and then I heard them no more. His voice was deeper, but there was no mistaking it. It was his voice.

From behind me I heard softer steps, padded steps, the steps of a running dog. Like the runner’s steps, the canine steps grew close, passed beside me and disappeared in the direction I had been staring. No dog was there to be seen but I knew the soft, galloping sounds were the sounds of Lady’s soft paws on the concrete.

I was overcome by joy, knowing these two beloved souls were nearby, even if they were ghosts. I knew they were surely ‘ghost angels,’ and I’ve called them that ever since; Kevin and Lady, Riverside’s ‘ghost angels!’”

ACTION: The woman was silent a moment, and then she raised her head, turned to the side and spoke, a smile now rising from her lips and growing across her face.

TEACHER: “Here it is! Do you hear the sounds of the runner?”

SOUND EFFECTS: Running footsteps (human), they start quiet, then grow louder and then quiet again, then disappear.

Then the soft galloping sounds begin. They also start quietly, louder, then fade away softly.

TEACHER: “They never run together.”

ACTION: Her face turns away, her eyes stare into the distance. She swallows and squeezes her eyes shut, as though she anticipates tears.

TEACHER: “It’s been three years since I first heard them pass, and they are always alone, running a few moments apart, and I always feel a wave of sadness when they pass me by.”

ACTION: She closes her eyes. The steps approach once more. The runners steps are slower.

The padded galloping steps become a walk, then a low, growling howl, soft and non-threatening.

KEVIN (in a muted male voice he whispers): “Lady.”

SOUND EFFECTS: More soft howls.

TEACHER: “Do you feel that? Do you feel the waves of JOY moving around us? It feels like warm ocean currents!”

ACTION: She closes her eyes and smiles. When her eyes open, tears roll like small rivers down her cheeks. She wipes them away.

TEACHER: “Goodbye, dear ones! You will always be in my heart.”

NARRATOR: “The runners crisp steps now keep a rhythm with the softer steps, and after another moment in which a circling, warm and blissful breeze brushes our skin, (use fans to move the air) the pair of footsteps take off together in a run and disappear into the night.”

KEVIN: “On to rainbow bridge, Lady!”

SOUND EFFECTS: A distant bark, half growling, which fades into the night.

***

ZOMBIE LOVE

By Angelina O’Shields-Hayner (Age 8)

I am a zombie and I am half human. I like to attack mansions. Their size is awesome to me. I can turn into a bat. Not all zombie humans could do that. I was once married to a zombie but after a few hundred years he started having side effects from human blood and he exploded.

I had been grieving for a few hundred years but then I started noticing something was wrong. My husband was playing tricks on me and trying to tell me he was still with me as a ghost, not a dead zombie. We loved each other so much that we couldn’t be kept apart. I was lonely because I didn’t have much family, just my annoying brother, so I wanted my husband back.

He came back and lived in the house with me and my brother went to live in the sky where the other zombie humans lived.

We were all happy.

XOXOXO

THE END

The Secret of Mary Bell By Jacqueline Y. Paul

Thrills & Chills! Check back here each day leading up to Halloween for a new story written at an Inlandia workshop for those wanting to write for Ghost Walk. This story was a selection for the 2015 Ghost Walk.

***

Narrator: 100 years ago on these very streets of Riverside, there lived a child. A very odd child. This child was about 14 when she came to live with her adoptive parents–John and Josephine Jones. They were humble people who owned a mercantile in downtown Riverside–right about where we are standing now.

It was on this very night that a terrible incident occurred. I am actually not comfortable telling you about this particular story on this particular night, in this particular place. But, since you good people have paid good money to come on this tour tonight, I will take a chance.

The child’s name was MARY BELL. She had no friends. And her history was questionable. She had a stick doll she liked to carry around. No one knows where this stick doll came from but rumor has it, it was cursed. Some say it is the physical incarnation of Satan himself!

Just a little bit of little known local lore, right? All I know is that those who tell the story warn others …NEVER say the name MARY BELL…Never in this place on this night. NEVER say MARY BELL. MARY BELL.

Oh, no…I said it! I hope we will be okay! It’ll be okay, right?

Priest: (comes from behind the crowd…maybe some fog… he’s burned in tattered clothes and walks with a limp)

What have you DONE? Mary Bell. Mary Bell….say her name and burn in HELL!!! You’re cursed. CURSED!!! Then he limps away and collapses. All of you are CURSED LIKE ME!

John: (he’s also burned …comes from behind…wearing tattered overalls and burned….kind of looks like a zombie farmer)

CURSED indeed! I will never rest in peace as long as people keep saying that cursed child’s name…bringing her back to life. Bringing her back to torture my soul.

It was 1915… Mother and I wanted a child but my wife, Josephine, was barren. Some say it was the stress of a previous life. You see, my wife and I weren’t always upstanding citizens. We didn’t mean it….but we killed someone–a poor helpless widow. We hit her over the head with a cast iron pan left on her stove.

We stole all of her silverware and the money in her safe…then we buried her under our store.

Nobody knew. (repeats) Nobody knew…

Or at least we thought nobody knew….

When we heard from my brother in Santa Rosa that there was one child survivor after a fire burned the orphanage there, we thought God was telling us that this was our chance for a child. Nobody wanted to take her in because she was…strange. We traveled all the way to Northern California to save her. We thought it odd that she had been there for 13 years–since she was 13 months old–and was never adopted. And, there were strange stories about what had happened to three other families who tied to take her in…and then mysteriously disappeared. All of their homes burned–but she survived. They all had her with them for just about a year….

Josephine: (comes into the crowd ….in period clothing all torn and burned…she also looks like a zombie)

Who spoke that cursed child’s name? I will never rest as long as it is uttered. I remember that night… I remember so well. It was closing time. I yelled for Mary Bell to come help me clean up. She had been with us for 13 months exactly.

And…it was the anniversary of the very night that I committed that horrible thing…I was young. I didn’t know better. I was desperate. And, nobody knew.

Nobody knew.

Nobody knew.

But I knew and I hated to be out on this wretched night. I ached to get home.

I yelled and yelled for Mary–“MARY BELL! MARY BELL!”

I finally found her…sitting on the very spot where he had buried old widow Smith’s body-back where we stored cleaning supplies.

Mary. Mary. I scolded. Get away from there. Let’s go. But she wouldn’t leave. She just sat there staring at that doll…chanting….“BURN IN HELL! BURN IN HELL. BURN IN HELL!!!!”

Suddenly … a wind came along—a HUGE wind! Oh, I can’t think of it! The howling wind and the smell of sulphur! I looked at Mary…her eyes had turned BLACK. She started laughing at me. Oh no! No! No! She has come back!

MARY BELL: (she should look really really scary…) You stupid fools! I’m not a child. I am MARY BELL. I came for your souls! You cannot hide your wrongdoing from GOD or SATAN! You are damned to walk the earth whenever my name is said. You will NEVER REST!

(Mary then looks at her doll…the eyes glow and maybe there’s some smoke or a loud sound or something)

(John and Josephine and the priest start writhing in pain……and there is fake fire or at least fire sounds)

NARRATOR: The Smiths’ store burned to the ground that night. They say it was actually swallowed into the bowels of the earth. The townsfolk later called in a priest to purify the ground. Legend has it that a priest also was cursed to HELL and swallowed up the minute he set foot on the ground. It was many years before anyone built anything here again….but time goes on and we all realized that nothing bad can really come from saying a person’s name or standing in this spot on this night…Can it?…I mean MARY BELL…MARY BELL…what does that do? (dismissive and sing-songy)

(then MARY BELL and a legion of cursed souls start coming up to people saying MARY BELL….MARY BELL…SAY HER NAME AND BURN IN HELL….they all have stick dolls with them….they terrorize Ghost Walk visitors as they walk away…..)

Inlandia: Past, Present, and Future by Cati Porter

People poured out of the elevators and onto the rooftop of the Riverside Art Museum last Friday night for the Totally Amazing Kickoff Event for the Marion Mitchell-Wilson Endowment for Inlandia’s Future. The invitation read, in part, “Marion would want you to attend.” With a 60″ banner of Marion flying at the entrance, she was definitely there, watching over all of us. Marion had many friends, and it was my privilege to be counted among them.

This was an event to remember.

With a drink in their hand, old friends and new listened to live jazz. Emceed by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Teresa Rhyne, and with speakers Heyday founder and publisher Malcolm Margolin, acclaimed photographer Douglas McCulloh, and award-winning local treasure and inaugural Literary Laureate Susan Straight (“There should be a statue!”), there was no shortage of talent present, and the space buzzed.

When the night was over, Marion’s wish had come true: We reached our goal of $100,000.

This is the power of friendship, and of community. I am in awe of all of you.

Some have asked what this endowment is going to do. In short, it will ensure the future of the Inlandia Institute and further the good work that Marion, Inlandia’s founder, set out to do.

Inlandia, since its inception, has provided hundreds of programs, and served many thousands, including creative literacy programs for youth.

SCIPP (Students and Coyotes Instruction in Poetry and Prose) at Bryant School of Art & Innovation in Riverside, a program created by Inlandia’s third Literary Laureate Juan Delgado, helps kids learn to write their own stories, songs, screenplays, and poems, present them in front of an audience, and allows them to see their work in print in a small book.

Other in-school presentations have included authors like Straight and Gayle Brandeis, inspiring the next generation to read and to write.

We’ve also brought puppetry programs to schools through Puppet Palooza, and writing workshops and readings to at-risk youth through a partnership with the Women Wonder Writers program.

Inlandia isn’t just for children, though; Inlandia offers creative literacy programs for adults, too. Our free creative writing workshops program has grown from one held in downtown Riverside to a half-dozen held at local libraries across the region, as well as an annual Family Legacy writing workshop for seniors and a Boot Camp for Writers series of workshops.

Inlandia also publishes books of local interest and national importance. In November of last year, we published No Easy Way: Integrating Riverside Schools – A Victory for Community by Arthur L. Littleworth, which tells the story of the 1965 voluntary integration of Riverside Unified School District, which spurred a series of community conversations that brought people together to talk through tough issues.

Coming in 2016, look for more books by local authors including the local signing sensations The Why Nots, an all-women’s musical group that has been performing together for forty-five years, and one on noted and noteworthy architect Henry Jekyl, who left a legacy of beautiful Riverside homes, and a few mysteries, by Dr. Vince Moses and Cate Whitmore.

In addition to those, we will also be publishing the winners of inaugural Hillary Gravendky Prize, an open poetry book competition with both a national and a regional winner, judged by award-winning CSUSB faculty poet Chad Sweeney. We are thrilled to announce that Kenji Liu (Monterrey Park, CA), was awarded the National prize for his manuscript Map of an Onion, and Angela Ina Penaredondo (Riverside, CA), was awarded the regional prize for her manuscript All Things Lose Thousands of Times.

Inlandia is also proud partners with local libraries and other arts organizations to provide other opportunities for literary engagement including the Riverside Public Library, where Inlandia recently began an outdoor summer reading series during Arts Walk, Literature on the Lawn; Poets in Distress, a performance poetry group, will be presenting on October 1. We also have a brand-new partnership with UCR’s Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts, the Conversations at the Culver series where just this past week we kicked off the series with Pulitzer Prize finalist and UCR professor Laila Lalami.

We also take pride in participating in community activities, from Riverside’s Day of Inclusion and Day of the Dead festivities, to the Native Voices Poetry Festival in Banning at the Dorothy Ramon Center to Western Municipal Water District’s Earth Night in Garden in April. Inlandia will also be a part of the upcoming Long Night of Arts & Innovation on October 8 and the Riverside Festival of the Arts on October 10, with interactive literary activities, including a Long Night of Arts & Innovation-sponsored Poetry Box: Bring a poem you wrote at home or write one on the spot and drop it in the box for a chance to win the Long Night Poetry Contest. One poem will be selected for publication on the Long Night of Arts and Innovation website.

Marion once said that Inlandia was “on the cusp”. I think whatever comes after the cusp: we’re here. Welcome to the future. Inlandia means a lot of things to a lot of different people. But to me, Inlandia means all of us. We are all Inlandia. Thank you.

Inlandia Founder Remembered by Cati Porter

No one could ever say “no” to Marion Mitchell-Wilson.

After I began attending Inlandia events in late 2007, Marion invited me for coffee. Before my cup was empty, I had agreed to become a member of Inlandia’s Advisory Council.

Smiling, thoughtful and almost always full of energy, Marion had a way of making you want to help with her projects. And you never regretted it.

Marion, founding director of the Inlandia Institute, died a week ago after a long battle with breast cancer.

I never envisioned an Inlandia without Marion. Occasionally she would say things like, “Cati, when I retire,” but I couldn’t think past the here and now.

Even after she officially “retired” in 2012 to work on getting well, she continued to be present for me, whispering suggestions and offering solutions, serving as Inlandia’s institutional memory.

Many of us have fond memories of Marion, and how she got us involved in promoting the Inland area’s literary life. We’ll share a few thoughts here from several Inlandia board members and local writers.

FRANCES J. VASQUEZ

Marion Mitchell-Wilson cared passionately about many things and all things Inlandia: the people, their stories, and the literary expression of our regional voices. Multi-talented, she was a wonderful gourmet cook who loved to share her bounty and her kindness with others.

One Friday, I helped Marion with preparations for an Inlandia member reception being held the next day. Her amazing menu included a favorite recipe for asparagus spears roasted with orange slices in lemon-infused olive oil and orange vinaigrette. And, a reconstructed whole poached salmon with cream cheese, cucumber sauces, and other delicacies.

During several hours of washing, peeling, and slicing fruits and vegetables, I spilled water on the kitchen floor. I asked for paper towels or rags to wipe the floor with. Marion, in her efficient way, quickly turned to a drawer and handed me a large cloth towel. I bent over to wipe the spills when Marion stopped me. “No, Frances. Don’t bend. Skate like this.”

Marion tossed the towel on the floor, stepped onto it with both feet and skated gracefully around her kitchen floor. We both laughed heartily and continued with the food preparations.

ELIO PALACIOS

I met Marion at last year’s Advisory Council workshop. My first impression was how unassuming she was considering the part she had played in creating and shaping Inlandia. And her love of and dedication to Inlandia was also very apparent as was her knowledge and wisdom.

KAREN RAE KRAUT

Marion and I met in 1990 when the California Humanities Council sponsored a series of public programs on the theme of “Place” and its effect on how we experience our lives. How’s that for foreshadowing?

Our expanding group of interested people went on to receive a grant from the Humanities Council to locally sponsor the American Renaissance Chautauqua, which resulted in the formation of a non-profit organization called the Inland Empire Educational Foundation. IEEF (rhymes with leaf), as we fondly called it, sponsored reading and discussion groups and public programs for the next five years.

Marion was an important part of all these free programs, and her vision and common sense contributed greatly to their success.

ELLEN ESTILAI

It was impossible to be part of the Riverside arts and culture scene and not know Marion Mitchell-Wilson, but I really got to know her after she invited me to a meeting with Malcolm Margolin at the Riverside Main Library to talk about the literary landscape of what we would eventually come to know as Inlandia.

That meeting helped lay the groundwork for Heyday’s book, “Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California’s Inland Empire.”

When the anthology was published, no one in the community wanted that journey to end. Marion was the engine that drove the bus, and she cajoled and sweet-talked fellow travelers into hopping on.

In 2007, I retired from the Riverside Arts Council to devote more time to writing. I was hoping for a respite from meetings and committees, but Marion was having none of that. She told me she wanted me to serve on the advisory council of a new organization, the Inlandia Institute.

“It’s just a few meetings a year,” she assured me. When I demurred, she said, “There will be liquid facilitation.”

I’ve now been in for eight years, as a council member and board member, but also as a writer. Luckily for me, the Inlandia Institute emerged just as I was learning to be a writer. I cannot imagine writing without Inlandia’s support. Like many others in this unique literary community, I am indebted to Marion for her vision, strength, and yes, occasional liquid facilitation.

ENDOWMENT

When Marion first learned the cancer had returned and was terminal, she met privately with Inlandia board members and staff, sharing her one big wish: that an endowment be founded in her name, so she could ensure the future of the organization.

In keeping with Marion’s wishes, the family is requesting donations in lieu of flowers.

Contributions can be made via PayPal, using donations@inlandiainstitute.org, through CrowdRise and by mailing a check to the Inlandia Institute, 4178 Chestnut St., Riverside, Ca., 92501.

And save these dates: Aug 28 for a memorial service at the California Citrus State Historic Park, and Sept 18 for a special endowment kickoff party in Marion’s honor at the Riverside Art Museum.

Literature in Idyllwild by Jean Waggoner

The words of a good story jump off the page to charm, cajole, reason and wrestle with the human imagination. They carry us away, while anchoring us more profoundly to our world. In summer, libraries entice young readers with prizes for significant amounts of any kind of reading, as adults, too, search for new flights of brainy experience.

Riverside readers live in one of the largest counties in the country. When joined with San Bernardino as the Inland Empire (Inlandia, as some of us prefer), our locality is about as big as the state of Rhode Island. We have plenty of places to go and things to see, as well as a huge library system to draw upon for reading, listening and viewing material. Nonetheless, those of us in the county’s rural parts, like Idyllwild, don’t have easy access to a good book store without driving some distance, or as Mount San Jacinto’s people say, “going off the hill.”

Sure, there’s online shopping, but what can a literary-book or CD-gifting auntie do at two O’clock on a Wednesday afternoon to get a birthday present mailed to a thirteen-year-old in the county seat by Friday, when no such virtual store delivery has arrived?

Idyllwild readers know how to find good reading material, of course. Our library offerings include used book sales and several of the town’s thrift and “junk-tique” shops carry old books. The Nature Center or Forest Service offer selected new books on topics of outdoor interest, including publications by Inlandia members Myra Dutton and Sally Hedberg.

For Mackenzie, who turned thirteen on July 10th, this auntie broke from tradition and selected writing, instead of reading materials: a journal and a booklet of flowery sticky-notes from Idyllwild Gift Shop (whose proprietor has often posted Inlandia workshop fliers on her bulletin board). Tactile and old tech, the gifts brought back teen memories, a spiritual link from one generation to another.

The shopping excursion also elicited some community appreciation of what we do have in Idyllwild. We’ve got organizations that promote the arts in our schools, often drawing on retiree talent. In the literary arts, we have theater, writing and book club groups. The Idyllwild Arts campus, a fine arts high school, also offers summer classes for kids and adults.

Although we have no literary laureate who writes specifically about our mountains, quite a few published writers work or vacation here, and luminaries like Ann Rice have stayed awhile, somewhat incognito, among us. Local stories have been collected, showcased and archived by our highly acclaimed Idyllwild Historical Society and Idyllwild writers continue to add local color to literary writing. The literary climate is alive and well, here!

Sadly, long-time Idyllwild resident Myra Dutton will no longer serve as co-leader of our Idyllwild Inlandia Writing Workshop, after this summer. We understand, and we value the gifts she has inspired us with, including her “daughter of the plains’ meditation” on the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina’s World, which she shared in this beautiful poem:

Riding the Sacred

I have heard the secrets here,

felt the breath and beat of wind

across the grass-maned prairie,

and I climb on the back of this Earth,

as if I had journeyed centuries before,

her wild hair twined in my hand.

National Poetry Epoch by John Bender

If April’s really the cruelest month, per our old American expat T.S. Eliot, why is it National Poetry Month?

One month is too short, and poetry desires thoughtful reflection, emotional investment and delight, not brief periods of frenzy—post one poem a day on Facebook, maybe someone will notice amid all the social-media noise.

So, given the power vested in me as this week’s grumpy, yet hopeful, Inlandia Literary Journeys columnist, I hereby declare 2015-2016 as National Poetry Epoch. Forget April. We have a great year ahead of us.

Skeptical? Well, at least for the Inland area, this year already has proved momentous.

The Library of Congress recently named former UC Riverside professor Juan Felipe Herrera as poet laureate of the United States for 2015-16. He officially begins in September with events at the library’s National Book Festival.

Herrera, who just finished his term as California’s poet laureate, becomes the second US poet laureate with strong ties to UCR. Best-selling poet Billy Collins, who served as national laureate from 2001-2003, received a masters in English from the university in 1965 and earned a doctorate in Romantic Poetry at UCR in 1971.

So forget about the people from LA who look down on our area. Forget about those on the East Coast who don’t even know we’re here. We’re no literary wasteland. We can boast of two poet laureates who lived here, worked here and breathed the same smog we breathe.

I’m not familiar enough with Collins’ work to know whether his time in the Inland area is reflected in his poems, but I know that this area’s stark beauty and working-class mixing bowl of huddled masses have informed Herrera’s poems.

And I know that Herrera will welcome our help making his time as US laureate a tremendous time of poems and poetry—an epoch of enthusiasm!

While he was at UCR and during his time as California’s top poet, Herrera joined then-Inlandia laureate Gayle Brandeis, Inlandia Executive Director Cati Porter and me at a guerrilla reading in downtown Riverside.

Our aim was to surprise the workers and businessmen at lunchtime with a surprise poetry reading. It wasn’t as guerrilla as I wanted it to be, because when the state’s poet laureate is going to read, you alert the city fathers.

And so, amplified by a small public address system powered by a battery from a defunct 1963 Buick—the whole contraption contained in the back of a child’s wagon—we brought poetry to downtown Riverside’s pedestrian mall.

During that November 2013 event, which you can find on YouTube by searching for “California Poet Laureate holds impromptu-style reading downtown,” Herrera was the pied piper of poems, the ambassador of allusion—clearly a guy who relishes sharing poetry.

He released more energy than that Buick battery, inviting passersby to compose their own poems on the spot. He made me and his other co-readers feel like the most important poets on the planet, even translating one of my lines into a cool Spanish phrase, “¡Raja la calabaza!” (which of course I’ve incorporated into the text of the poem.)

During his California term, Herrera brought poetry to other unexpected places, reading at the re-opening of the Oakland Bay Bridge and inspiring hundreds to join him in writing “The Most Incredible and Biggest Poem on Unity in the World.”

I have no doubt that he plans even bigger unifying events during his term as national laureate, so why wait?

As poets, literary fans and readers, let’s all pledge to share poems with others during the next year. Let’s invite friends to breakfast and give them a reading while they digest. Let’s volunteer at schools and teach the children to write poems, let’s give free readings at hospitals, bus stops!

Let’s go to readings wherever they’re held. Let’s buy poetry books, attend poetry workshops.

Let’s write love poems for poetry.

It’s our turn. It’s our epoch. Juan Felipe needs our help. We have work to do.


To learn about upcoming readings and Inland literary events, go to inlandiainstitute.org

The Do’s and Don’ts of Submitting by Cati Porter

Most of you know me as the face of Inlandia. Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed for the My Awesome Empire radio broadcast. One of the things they asked was how did I get involved with Inlandia. I have Marion Mitchell-Wilson to thank, who invited me to coffee and the rest is history. Everyone who knows her knows that you can’t say no to Marion.

Marion and I met at an Inlandia event—I can’t even remember which, this was so long ago, but Inlandia was still housed at the Riverside Public Library, and Marion ran the organization from her post as Development Officer at the library, curating their arts and culture calendar. I was just a few years in to my own foray into arts & culture, having founded Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry, an online literary journal dedicated to poetry. The first Advisory Council meeting that I attended was in 2009, and shortly after that Inlandia broke from the library and formed its own independent nonprofit. I never envisioned then that I would someday be at the helm.

Marion had as one aspect of her vision for Inlandia, the preservation of the voices and stories of those that make this place home. In furthering that mission and vision, coupled with my own interest in writing and publishing, I have been working hard toward expanding Inlandia’s publications program. We have been slowly adding books to our catalog, both through Heyday and independently, and with the launch of the Hillary Gravendyk Prize, we hope to continue to bring books to the public for many years to come. It’s a slow process, though, one that requires patience as we gain speed.

Through Poemeleon first, and now through Inlandia, I’ve learned many things about publishing. It hasn’t been easy, and as a writer myself, it’s been challenging to follow my own advice sometimes, but years ago I found a very helpful list of “50 dos and don’ts”, which I’ve modified for my own use. For those of you looking for a publisher, or looking to submit work to Inlandia, try to keep these things in mind:

– Do read submissions guidelines carefully—it shows you respect the editor’s time, and that you take the submission process seriously.

– Don’t ask for feedback on your work, because, again, it shows you respect the editor’s time; if you want feedback, find a writers workshop to join or form your own.

– Do keep cover letters brief; don’t include anything personal other than your contact info, and don’t try to summarize what you are trying to do with the poems.

– Don’t include a bio that is a mile long—editors don’t need to see everywhere you’ve ever published; only include a handful of recognizable and recent credits, or don’t include any at all.

– Do spell check everything and proofread until you’re certain they are no typos, and don’t freak out if you find out later that there was a typo, because if the work is good, that can be fixed later; editors understand.

– Don’t center your poems or use any other weird formatting or font or use ALL CAPS unless you have a very strategic reason to do so.

– Do your research and submit only to journals that you’ve actually read and think might like your work.

– Don’t put the copyright symbol on your poems—copyright is inherent from the moment of creation. (And if someone is out to steal your work, the copyright symbol isn’t going to stop them.)

– Do submit to more than one press or journal at a time, as that ups the odds of the work getting picked. (Exception: if a press or journal specifically states no simultaneous submissions.)

And lastly:

– Don’t take rejection personally! There are so many reasons why an editor might pass something up. And if you get a personalized rejection, submit again—promptly!

Right now, Inlandia is gearing up to reopen submissions but we are not currently accepting full-length manuscripts. One of our goals is to provide services to authors—whether they are looking for a publisher, or want help publishing it themselves. All writing has an audience somewhere, it just takes patience, strategic submitting, and time.

But while you’re waiting, if you have individual prose or poetry selections, check out Inlandia’s online literary journal, Inlandia: A Literary Journey (www.InlandiaJournal.org). Or try these other So Cal presses and venues:

IE-centric Lit Journals:

PoetrIE/Tin Cannon

Wild Lemon Project

Pacific Review

Ghost Town

Crate

Mosaic

Muse

Shuf Poetry

See the Elephant

Presses:

Metaphysical Circus Press

Blue West Books

Jamii Publishing

Orange Monkey

Moon Tide

Spout Hill

Lucid Moose Lit

Cadence Collective

Sadie Girl Press

Arroyo Seco Press

For the Love of Words

Tebot Back

reVERB

Bank-Heavy Press

Kelsay Books

Aortic Books

Lummox Press

Locked Horn Press

I’m sure there are more presses out there—if you know of any, send me a link! Help me build a list of resources for Inlandia’s writers to include on our website.

Inland Area Influences Poems of Hard Truths: Yossi, Yasser, & Other Soldiers by Joan Koerper

Award-winning books are often birthed in pieces, over several years in different locations. During the 10 years that poet Jon Sebba lived in Redlands and commuted to work in Riverside and San Bernardino, he confronted his ghosts of war by writing. In 2013, poems he penned in the shadows of the San Gorgonio Mountains helped earn him the title of Poet of the Year by the Utah State Poetry Society for his book, Yossi, Yasser, & Other Soldiers.

Rising from his young soldier’s soul, Sebba’s poems record, reflect, and meditate on the images, sounds, and psychological realities of war. They offer an indelible expression of the invisible scars Sebba has carried with him since he witnessed his friend, Yossi Levi, killed in the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-Day War: “that a man you knew for weeks who died in a war of only six days / can be mourned for 45 years and counting.” And he gives voice to those caught in battle who can no longer speak for themselves.

His poems are authentic: embodying truths he refuses to couch, hide, or deny. As Dr. Rob Carney writes in the preface: “The power of these poems is that they don’t explain. They present.”

After witnessing a man severely beaten in front of his family, and learning an inquiry into the incident was to occur, Sebba writes: “Too late for that Palestinian farmer / in ripped, blood-splattered pajamas. / Too late for me, still carrying / invisible scars all these years.”

The first 25 poems in the collection focus directly on the 1967 Six-Day War. Twenty-one poems speak to “Others’ Wars”: WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. During a phone interview, Sebba explained, “I included poems about other wars, and other conflicts or situations, that I was driven to write because they were about things that bothered me.”

I met Jon Sebba when we were members of the Redlands Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). He was one of two men who broke the gender barrier, joining the group when males were allowed membership. He quickly started a play reading group for the Branch. For four years, being part of that group was my favorite monthly activity.

I also was a member of a writer’s support group he hosted, one of the multitude of writer’s groups he has either anchored, or participated in, wherever he has lived. When he moved, we lost touch. Recently, I located him in relation to a book I’m writing about a former center of intellectual, literary, and creative activity for women in Redlands where he took part in a community program I organized and produced.

Born and raised in South Africa, Sebba left after high school to live in Israel. He studied geology, among other subjects and held various jobs. When the Six-Day War broke out he was mobilized as a reservist and fought in Jerusalem while his wife and 3-month-old son huddled in a bomb shelter a few miles behind the front lines. Transformed by the experience of random death, he committed to the belief that war should be avoided. “We didn’t know / that every rifle bullet / manufactured for the army / is intended for some mother’s child / But, by God, we do now,” he writes.

Sebba immigrated to the United States in 1968. He studied civil engineering, became a specialist in water-resources engineering, eventually working in six states. He welcomed another son into the family, and later divorced and re-married. For five years he was also an adjunct instructor in the engineering department at Salt Lake Community College, Salt Lake City, Utah until he retired. He and his wife now balance their time between Utah and Arizona.

Writing and being able to share his poems with others has been deeply therapeutic, says Sebba. In turn, his poems are therapeutic to others.

In demand as a speaker, he relates, “I often focus on writing as a way to work through trauma. And I always offer to connect with veterans. I want to help. And because family members are sharing stories with me after [readings and] speaking engagements, I’ve grown more aware of the trauma and stress the family goes through because they’ve been left behind.”

In 2013, The Gallery Theatre in Ogden, Utah produced a play he wrote. From November to June each year he teaches poetry at a low security prison in Tucson, Arizona. He is also organizing a program to work with veterans in Arizona using writing as therapy. And Yossi, Yasser, & Other Soldiers is a text used in a Social Justice class at Salt Lake Community College.

Sebba’s current writing projects tackle another volatile subject: apartheid. He has written a second play, and is working on a novel, both based on people he knew while growing up in South Africa. And, of course, another book of poems about the effects of war is taking shape. “If I can help others through my experience, and writing, it is both satisfying and fulfilling,” he shared.


Yossi, Yasser, & Other Soldiers is available at Amazon.com.

Jon Sebba can be reached at: yossi.yasser.soldiers@gmail.com.

This column was published in the Riverside Press-Enterprise, May 24, 2015; Section: Life; Page Z2 & Z5.

Imperfect Fragments by Joan Koerper

It’s National Poetry Month. My poetic soul celebrates as I honor the poet in me, and the poets, and poetic works that have nurtured my life. Like most of us I have been in conversation with poets whom I know only through their writings. At other times, I am sharing a repast or sipping a drink with a poet whose vitality is radiating the space around us.

One of the poets I am privileged to know is Deenaz Paymaster Coachbuilder. Deenaz is well known to most of us who are part of the Inlandia community, yet her many accomplishments and talents are sometimes hidden by her soft and nonintrusive demeanor. I met Deenaz in the summer of 2009 at the Inlandia Creative Writing Workshop led by Ruth Nolan, MA, MFA, at the Main Riverside Library. Our friendship solidified over the months, indeed years, that we participated in the workshops and has continued on. For us, the workshops were a way to connect with a community of writers and continually challenge ourselves.

Deenaz, a Riverside resident, is a published poet in the US and India. Her poems have appeared in Inlandia: A Literary Journey; Sun Runner; Sugar Mule Literary Magazine; Parsiana; The Elphinstonian; Slouching Toward Mt. Rubidoux Manor; 2011 Writing From Inlandia; The Riverside County Recorder; India Journal; and Crucible. As an artist, Deenaz exhibits her often mesmerizing works in oil. She is also an educator and environmental advocate. Deenaz received a doctorate in Theater, an MS in Communicative Disorders in the US, and an MA in Literature from Bombay University, India. A retired school principal, she is a consulting Speech Pathologist and university professor in “special education.” A Fulbright scholar, Deenaz is the recipient of several awards, including President Obama’s “Volunteer Service Award.”

Deenaz published her first book of poems, Imperfect Fragments in 2014. Having watched the work unfold, I wrote a review that is including in a final section of the book entitled “Words of Praise.” I am waiting to post my review at Amazon, whenever the book is available there. Until then, I am overdue posting it here to honor Deenaz and her work. Happy National Poetry Month.


Joan Koerper On Imperfect Fragments by Deenaz Paymaster Coachbuilder

Harvesting imperfect fragments arising from a full range of human experience, translated internally in a multitude of languages, sensations, and lingering emotions, Dr. Deenaz Coachbuilder transmutes swatches of vibrant phrases into a stunning outpouring of poetic expression. “Life is a pilgrimage. But where does the path lead?” she begins, extending an invitation to accompany her on this personal journey of questing and questioning. Deenaz’s poems illuminate a journey of compassion, grace and transformation as she contemplates and celebrates, time, love, faith, the human condition and the continuum of spirit.

In the end, however, it is the humility of her spiritual journey that is most telling, and the true stairway to the profundity of her poetry. Even in the days when she felt no affinity to any particular faith, her unfailing sense of connectedness to all forms of life, the Universe, and particularly her family, in other words, her spirituality, never wavered. Deenaz shares her acute awareness of class differences in poems such as “The Green Hedge,” her almost unbearable grief over the untimely and tragic death of her only brother, her struggle to confront her mortality as she battled cancer, and her joy at the birth of her grandson, Barjor. We feel her affinity with the desert rose rock, the dandelion, the Joshua Tree, her dissolution into, and oneness with, a monarch butterfly and other sentient beings in “Impermanence of Being.” We read her tribute to the labor of the earthworm in “Paradise Lost,” become hypnotized along with her by the sight of a tiger languishing in cooling waters, celebrate Ocotillo Lady in the deserts of California, and listen while “Cymbidium Orchid Speaks.” All of her poems are ultimately a spiritual “answering echo to one’s primordial being.”

Deenaz’s heartfelt, lyrical, sometimes painful reflections are augmented with visuals of her other talents in the arts: stunning photographs such as “Alki Sunset.” We run with the wild horses contemplating her painting of same and feel our own eyebrows lift to her painting “Startled Flight.” The array of family photos across time, generations, and place, solidify that strong sense of her cultural identity across borders as she wonders at growing things.

I have been privileged to read and watch Deenaz’s poems evolve over the last few years. Yet I am profoundly moved by this collection she has courageously assembled. Each time I read and reread the poems, I am taken to a different depth of thought and feeling than I traveled on the previous read. Deenaz’s fravashi, her guardian spirit, has given a gift to us all by not only being at her side, but by guiding Deenaz’s poetic hand to weave her imperfect fragments into a memorable work that the reader will want to return to, again and again. (c) 2013 MJ Koerper.

Imperfect Fragments © 2013 Deenaz Paymaster Coachbuilder. First published, 2014. ISBN: 9780991308507