Tucson is rich with these writers. The five featured here are a random and subjective sampling of the variety of voices you can hear each week around town. Two locations include the open-mic sessions held Wednesday nights at the Hazy Dayz Lounge Cafe, 187 North Park Avenue, and Thursdays at the Epic Cafe on the corner of University and Fourth Avenue.
Eli is a 20-year-old junior majoring in psychology at the University of Arizona. He started writing about four years ago while attending high school in a Detroit suburb. A regular at the Hazy Dayz open mic sessions, Bedrosian doesn't consider his work either poetry or prose, he just "puts words on paper to express himself."
estranged and especially strange lately
my thoughts take place under a puddle
in the lane of some highway
so what does the product yield
my feel for field of vision is altering
so sturdy steps cross familiar paths
faltering and the confidence is shaken
yet I retain my ideals eyes focus forward
until my awakening
peel away layers of the onion shedding tear drops
because the eyes were too strong
finally decided to allow myself to come along
on this fantastic journey
in touch with the inners so im feeling quite on the exterior
attempting double plus hard to conceal what I feel
but never had a bigger brother
to watch over, I caught clovers
with four petals
and massaged it into my mental
then walk in half days
to the cosmic instrumental
Hush hush agents in possession of thespian mannerisms while acting as catalyst
advocates who prize the pushing forward of moments current, dual roles subservient
assigned to that unknown character. Sneak upon the unsuspecting in the stealth of a night
time ninja's stride, within his intentions the potential power rides, creep with quick of
casting storm, small flash of light to look weighing in consideration of the element of the
figment of imagination.
Control the think and the thought stop, give red eight side to fermented fruit approach
entrance to nother dimension of thought, toes grip the familiar and body balk.
I see myself through a costume but do I wear it or do you? The dynamic of things
in any case feels all too real, I straddle a trek and take a ride on the world.
Mostly I seek companionship from the plant life; those that you call trees
and bushes, those like to talk with me. If I get the chance I'll read the words
from the cryptic teleprompter in the sky sitting in my seat, after we've
passed the sun.
Informative, I sit dormant and evidence of things not seen pass
through a being, alter that which used to seem.
Closed eyelids --I try my hand at long hand hieroglyphics, dab slight from the
face palate, and stroke onto a dimension having half reality as I've seen it.
Teresa Driver, 33, grew up in Yuma and settled in Tucson about nine years ago. She started writing in middle school and hasn't stopped. With a degree in theater from Chico State University, she works seasonally as a theater technician, as does her husband. The birth of her son three years ago brought her focus back to poetry; these days she writes, as she puts it, "because I must, it is a part of my being, it is a necessary expression of my soul."
She's been published at a local and regional level by some small presses and recently self-published Gnaw on the Apple Core, a chapbook of her poetry. For years she did little with her work and only began to read publicly about a year ago. Most Wednesday nights you can find her at the open-mic session at the Hazy Dayz.
Besides writing, she spends time working with Las Sin Fronteras, a group of women who combine art and activism. As for the future, Driver hopes to be able to complete a graduate degree enabling her to teach creative writing and, as two of her teachers did for her, serve as an inspiration to a future generation of young writers.
2001 The Resurrection
If Jesus came in 2001
He'd be lucky to escape
Dark Night of the Soul?
Temptation becomes simple
Pure love howls
The son of god would be locked
Up, shot up
With lithium, haldol, depacote,
And that's only if, only
If he managed to avoid
The ritalin in grade school
That would pasteurize
If Jesus came in 2001
He'd have to be a talking ape
Stepping off a spaceship
To get our attention
Because we won't "just say no"
To Eli Lilly.
Excerpt from "Maya Mirror: The Impermanent Illusion"
I gather them in
Cobwebs and moss
Hang my illusions
I believe that chaos
I believe that people
And each planet
I believe that God
When we do.
I believe that the pool
Of sickly yellow
Turns green, grows lily pads
When enough of us
Spit blue, sing frogs.
In the voices in my head:
People I have been,
Women I have loved,
Fragments of characters
From stories I haven't written.
With this cacophony,
There's bound to be a savior
Or a saint
Functional Definition of Art
I've finally come to a functional definition of Art:
Art is anything society does not consider work.
It's not just poetry, paints, and props,
It's a two day kettle of organic chicken soup,
(which is also defined as love)
Barley for substance.
How could that be considered less
Than a work of art?
But there's the rub -- completed art is a "work",
Only if it is valued by others.
The process is not so defined,
My life is not so defined.
I don't work, I'm just busy.
Creativity permeates all of my "not work."
I arabesque at the laundry line,
Paint masterpieces of bleach on the floor,
Scour pearls of wisdom from the commode like Gandhi.
My pruned branch sculpture is ready for bulky trash pickup
My shopping lists may be the best things I ever write.
I take home making, house keeping, to high art.
It is inextricable from my poems.
Work, now that's something to do with money,
With the painting after it sells at auction for 30K,
With the song that secures a recording contract.
Work is about power and prestige,
Smoking too many cigarettes on break,
Yelling at your co-workers if they can't keep up.
Work is about that which is taxed,
And if my contribution is not documented,
Not codified by the IRS, the DES, or the Man
It obviously does not exist.
Who remembers the chicken soup
Six months later, but the maker?
Albert Vetere Lannon
Another regular at the Hazy Dayz, Albert Lannon, 64, retired to Tucson in June of last year after living in San Francisco for 35 years. Lannon grew up in New York City, moved to the Bay Area in 1960 and worked first as a union official with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, then as a professor of labor studies. He has a degree in labor studies from San Francisco State and one in interdisciplinary creative arts in addition to an advanced degree in history.
He started writing poetry in New York in his early teens while hanging out at a neighborhood candy store. A bored friend asked for an order pad and started drawing caricatures; Lannon wrote his first poem. The candy store is gone, but Lannon is still writing. "It's a compulsion," he says. "Poetry can make order out of chaos."
Although new to Tucson, he is already involved with the Southern Arizona Alliance for Economic Justice. An archeology buff, his passion is exploring everything he can about who first reached the Americas and how they arrived.
Lannon's enthusiasm for the Hazy Dayz is apparent: "It's becoming a community with a wild diversity of people."
CASUALTIES OF WAR -- a true story based on a real story
I hiked a hard mile and a half in the shadow of Mount Whitney, sweat in my eyes, calves aching against the steep trail, lungs working hard against the altitude. I saw the ashram on a ridge above and stopped to take a drink from my water bottle, then pushed ahead, crossing the stream and up the stone stairs to the long-abandoned building. Winds whispered through the empty windows and doorways, through the holes in the roof. A broom stood in a corner. Though no one has lived here for over 50 years, the floor is still swept clean. A place for meditation. A holy place.
I walked to the altar and read the words inscribed in the cement, then looked up to see niches in the whitewashed wall. In one a blue butterfly barrette. In a corner a photo of a woman and her dog. In another niche an old plastic wallet. In presstype on the outside it said, The Dumb Dumb Donald. I took the wallet and opened it. Photographs and notes, a news clipping about a war ship's sailing, ghosts. Whisperings through the trees outside and among the roof beams.
O Donnie why did you go and join the Navy? I know you told me it was better than getting drafted, but now, you dumb, dumb guy, my guy, now your ship is leaving for the war and I may never see you again. I'm placing these photos of you and I and our friends here in this sacred place to keep you safe, to bring you home alive, to bring you back to me. O Donnie, you dumb, dumb guy, I love you so very much.
I looked at the bright faces in the photographs, young faces, eager for the world that lay before them. Bright as the mountain sun leaking through the ashram roof. I took one of the photographs of the pretty high school girl and put it in my own wallet. I listened again to the whispers on the wind.
O Donnie, suppose you get killed or crippled, suppose you end up on heroin like I hear on TV... suppose you fall in love with someone else? I can't bear the waiting, I can't, I pray to whatever gods there are that you be kept safe. If something happened to you I swear I'll die too.
I stared at the photos but the wind was gone. I sat a few minutes on a log in front of the smoke-blackened fireplace and fingered the wallet, then replaced it in the niche behind the altar. The downhill hike back was easier despite the afternoon sun, and the whispering played in my head. At the trailhead the breeze picked up again.
O Donnie, I was young, so young, and I believed you when you swore, you swore. My prayers kept you safe from the war, dear heart, but you abandoned me and broke my heart, and my broken heart couldn't keep me alive for long. You came home safe but I was the wounded one, the one that deserved a purple heart if I couldn't have your heart. Come again, Donnie, come to the ashram, and listen to the wind. Listen to what we might have been.
At home I showered and ate a silent dinner and looked at the tired lines in my wife's face. My boss called and told me to report for work early. I called my son to see how he was doing. I drank a few beers. While my wife watched TV I went into the bathroom and took out Gail's high school picture. I thought about that last time in the ashram, mouth on mouth, skin on skin, our eyes hungry and open and wet. I let the tears come, come from that deep and secret place where we all ache.
Jungle: birdsongs high overhead where
the canopy steals the sun while below
green-on-green shadows dense with life
grow. And grow quickly -- if I stood
in one place for an hour, the jungle
would have me. I would be one with
lemon ants, minty termites and
banana-tree tarantulas. A naked swath
exposes brown under the green where
ants have cleared a trail home. A baby
fer-de-lance reminds me of the danger
lurking in the green shadows. A jaguar's
footprint in the mud. Mud. Wearing
rubber boots against the wet, the humidity
so palpable I can reach out and squeeze
water out of the air. A flash of red and blue
as parrots, macaws, other birds move.
Brown movement in the canopy, a
family of monkeys. Urine-stench of
passing javelinas. Secret movement
of the bushmaster. Night geckos chasing
mosquito fever dreams. Vines on trees,
vines on vines, flowers on vines. The
smell of mildew and rot, the interconnection
of everything. Of every jungle thing,
living and dead. And me.
I was working on this poem when I got the news:
my electro-cardiogram showed something wrong.
Something wrong with my heart. My foolish heart.
Heart and soul. Heartbreaker. O be still my heart.
It doesn't seem fair: I quit smoking over 20 years ago,
quit drinking almost 14 years ago, became a vegetarian
seven years ago; I jogged for 15 years, ran half-marathons,
bicycled the last six or seven years; regular exercise.
But what it comes down to is that we cannot escape
our genetics, our history, the things we did when
we were strong enough to do them without caring
about consequences. I was young, therefore immortal.
The booze, the cigarettes, the drugs, the buttered steak,
the doughnuts, the high-stress jobs, my mother and father;
all interconnected, like life and death in the jungle. All
woven together, strangler vines on a dying tree. On me.
Erin Whitfield doesn't consider herself a poet; ask her and the likelihood is she'll tell you what she does is spoken word. Although poetry existed before print, these days spoken-word performers may arguably harken back to the days when poetry was an oral art not confined to the printed page. Indeed, poetry existed before print and spoken-word performerss, whom Whitfield whimsically calls "the red-headed, cross-eyed stepchildren of the literary world." They may serve as a connection to what poetry was before the academy started making the rules.
Whitfield, 43, started writing after her father's death in the mid-1980s. As a hell-raising teenager fascinated with the perceived glamour of living in the fast lane, she spent a couple of years in Hollywood before realizing life on the streets was depressing and demoralizing. She returned to Tucson where she eventually married a man she'd met in her pre-Hollywood days while a student at the University of Arizona; they divorced six years ago. She has two teen-age children and runs her own paralegal business.
For four years Whitfield performed with the Drunken Word Poets at the Club Congress, at one time Arizona's only spoken word troupe. She's organized the Tucson Regional Slam Contest, been involved with the Tucson Poetry Crawl, a Fourth Avenue Street Fair event, and recently both produced and performed in Def Poets 2002, a showcase for local spoken worders at the Club Congress. A regular at the Epic Cafe's Thursday sessions, Whitfield usually performs to music.
br<> Their Names
their names are pillows
upon which many have laid
their weary heads
beautiful names for fruits,
the soft flesh in which you dream
of sinking your teeth:
or the promise of wild spices
for your flavorless life:
Ginger. Curry, Cinnamon.
how your halcyon fingers
caress the fancy slip
of a woman who is not your wife:
Silky. Velvet. Silkyyyyyyy.
some names are widow's veils,
dark mesh through which one is never seen,
yet with room enough to breathe the vitals:
and the men, and their names.
the white shine of the gold kit on custom caddies.
red fur envelopes holding the folded names
of artists and romantics
Romeo. Michelangelo. Prince.
i had a name once. my long red nail
plucked it from a bourbon and water,
an odd fleck stuck to the bottom
after the liquor was drained.
it was pretty and antique
in the pink bar light,
so i took it.
the name chafed my skin like sackcloth,
but then everything did in those days.
i was always squirming from
one thing to the other --
this man's thigh, that man's eyes.
the name was caked like mud into all
the angles and crevices of my body.
rode with me in taxis,
sat patiently across the room
while i separated beneath hands
blue as coins.
i left Hollywood in September
when red plaid school girls
fell like leaves to scattered playgrounds.
i left the name on countless curbs,
under pillows, tucked into dashboards,
beneath my coffee at the Dennys on Sunset
with a note for the waitress:
take this, please, so i can go home.
if you don't, i'll understand.
when i returned to my room
in Tucson, the name was scribbled
in dust everywhere.
in lipstick on the mirror.
spelled out in my dinner soup.
i took a job as a waitress,
and gave them a name
i'd heard a whore use once.
after my shift of coins and thin smiles,
the nameless moment would hang outside my window
until the colorless dawn dampened the avenue,
until last night's faces faded
like fingerprints dead on hands.
sometimes, rain dropped bullets on my doorstep,
and the name would stand politely outside my door,
shivering in red, wet vinyl boots.
at night, the tv flickers shapes of snakes and animal crackers
on the wall above my bed.
my waitress apron laughs as it lounges on the floor.
i squirm beneath vowels of the name
until i rise, pull on thigh high boots.
walk the maze of alleys back downtown.
the name leads me like a crooked jailer,
ready to push me into traffic at the first chance,
bullet chambered and ready.
what is it that curls
the soul of a whore
when she quits
then quits again?
the name tattoos itself one hundred times
across the eyelids of johns,
until all men are johns.
this is when the name crawls along the window ledge,
dangles from wires criss-crossing the ceiling,
scratches from inside the wall.
and once again,
and like always,
i am left behind,
a stray thread dangling
from a crumpled fifty.
i cannot begin to tell you the length of
the graveyard where all the names are buried.
i only know it is damp and hidden beneath
the city. somewhere in california,
a wide mouth moans my old name.
i only know the names are buried in the damp
somewhere beneath the city of blood and gravel,
alongside white whore bones bleached
by the hard and shameful sun.
In The Moment Before I'm About To Be Held Down
The moment before
I'm about to be
is not so much
as it is
each second meets me
so fully head-on,
in the naked bulb
It is then
I'm looking into the fat white sun
of whom I have become.
As I splinter beneath the swollen hour,
and you touch those parts of my body
In the moment before
I'm about to be held down,
my beaded dress hangs
on the hook
like a noose.
Behind the stand up mirror,
lillies climb the wall
like Spanish poems.
The silver legs of the clock
inside your hands.
You sew me to the blue-striped mattress,
a small, hard button
time would forget
if time were a woman
with her legs spread open
atop the bed sheets
of her sorrows.
I wish you would
forget me. Or at least
forget this part.
But since this
is why you're here,
I can do nothing
but slide inside
slip back out
and face it:
I give up too easily
or too long ago.
You pull the moon through the forehead of my corpse
and little stars.
and little stars.
and little stars
He crosses the lizard-skin highway
toward the cyan desert,
her tongue twisted into a charm for his wrist.
He leaves, he always leaves her,
swollen and misplaced.
Already, the sun is too high in the sky.
Stars fall inside the church down the road.
Her breasts are blue as milk in early light.
Tyler Woods, Ph.D.
Tyler Woods has been writing music and lyrics for 35 years and poetry for about six. She likes the freedom that poetry allows, and contrasts it to music which she sees as more structured and mathematical. Woods is a Tucson native who for years lived the rock and roll life and supported herself by playing in bands. Along the road she discovered her spiritual self and turned to a life committed to helping others.
When she was in her 30s she decided to complete her education. Within seven years, and with no time off, she earned a bachelor's degree, a master's in counseling psychology and a doctorate in holistic health. Besides her private psychotherapy practice, Woods runs a "Sacred Women of Wisdom" group, a spiritual empowerment group. She facilitates a suicide survivors group and is in the process of formulating a series of workshops dedicated to "growing your spiritual garden."
These days, with a 75-hour work week, Woods finds playing with the West & Woods band a good way to get grounded. She describes her long-term relationship as happy and healthy and her partner as supportive. "I've done everything I've set out to do," Woods says, flashing a contented smile.
Most of my friends I've never met
Most of my friends I've never met
They all live on the internet
I'd have no idea what to say
If I meet one of them today
I've never been inside their house
I simply get there by clicking my mouse
I've never even seen their faces
But we have travelled many places
Yes, I suppose my friends are pretty neat
If I don't like them I just hit delete
Go to communion confess your sin
all you have to do is just log in
Cyber confession is complete absolution
the new thing in sin resolution
Download forgiveness at no extra cost
Receive redemption for those who are lost
the electronic bible is just a click away
don't even have to hit your knees to pray
So commit a sin God doesn't care
he's on line probably in shareware
Oh dear lord hear my prayer
help me understand my software
Dust to dust and ashes to ashes
please no more computer crashes
Bless that my hard drive
will stay healthy and alive
protect me from cyber hackers
shield me from all those attackers
Lord please don't let my server fail
bless that I will get all my e mail
Lord thanks for hearing me
Now bless my damn PC