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in the house where the old lady died

her family moved in (the man with the gray

mustache her son?) a handsome white couple

gray and unhappy, their teenage children unhappy

at our house we could hear their children

scream and curse at them, the father drove by

never looking at us, year after year for a decade or more

in his old car, fast, or in his pickup truck

never looking our way, never saying hello

the son grew burly, thick set, said hello only

if directly spoken to, walking up or down the hill

the son got a car, and left, then it was the daughter

who calmed down as she grew up, and i only saw her

crying in the street (one time sitting in the middle of

our street, refusing to move as i drove up the hill,

weeping) but then she appeared with a boyfriend

appeared happy, with little dog and boyfriend,

then the boyfriend was in the driveway, on his cell

phone, he said hello once or twice, then she was gone,

they were all gone, driveway empty, industrial size

dumpster in the driveway for a mound of debris, first

remodeling the house had seen in decades,

but the family was gone. months later, two boys

who appeared part black, part latino came by

looking for their dog (i had not seen their little dog),

said their family was renting the place, but

they would soon be moving (back to chicago?)—

and i don’t know who lives there now—

i drove by once and the driveway was empty,

the house dark, the front door wide open—

i thought to close it, but had never known those

people, i don’t know who lives there now.


Houses and Hills

photograph by Arturo Romo-Santillano



that’s me and you walking like crows with heads going back and forth like 2 trains running

that’s me and you with our little red tongues wagging like insects emerging from the desiccated nation of petals

that’s me and you with our cheeks squinty and shiny like a muscular salmon doing a whitewater squirt

that’s me and you when i wasn’t notched as a Roosevelt dime and you weren’t folded like the old war newspaper

that’s me and you riding the internecine moment when the night of the universe curled some gazes inside of boulders

that’s me and you making like stevedores on a 1934 General Strike as the hour itself glazed cool blueish ceramic

that’s me and you when i had a pocket full of keys as if that mattered and coins that could drop a meter in the street

that’s me and you when all our thoughts weren’t bottled in amber glass and tossed by the San Bernardino like a roadkill century


transcribed at “Type Writer: An Afternoon of L.A. Stories Typed Before Your Eyes” with Marisela Norte and Lynell George





How do we start?

I came to L.A. from Minneapolis

and I’m a shoemaker and I work for myself

I’ve literally only been here for three—no, four hours

A couple months ago I met this awesome dude

he’s with the L.A. Philharmonic

and I just need a reason to move

things were really picking up with this dude

they were. And they kept escalating, but they

came to a full stop, he was supposed to come visit me

and he didn’t. I don’t know what I’m doing

I could stay in Minneapolis… but I don’t know,

I didn’t decide…


he’s getting a divorce, he’s not really helpful

he’s emotionally embroiled in something I don’t want

to get involved with


I’m leaving on Friday, I’m just here for a week

it would be a big deal, to move all my equipment

but maybe, in Minnesota there’s 3 shoemakers

in L.A. there’s a lot more, but most of them are hobbyists


There’s a lot, in L.A. and New York, they charge

about $2,000. In Minneapolis my price point is about a third of that


Do you want the real story or the one I tell people?

I’ll tell you both

I was in grad school, in the MFA program at the

Art Institute of Chicago, I was a book maker, a writer, a photographer

I’d always done a lot of writing, editing

I got into a serious car accident,

I couldn’t write anymore

but shoes, I could follow


I made my MFA project shoes

they altered the way people had to walk,

you know, I didn’t have to say anything,

I didn’t have to explain, they sort of mimicked the healing process

you know what I mean?


I wrote a lot, I had a blog

but I lost it, a friend of mine said he found it

I wrote and wrote and wrote, but I lost it again

I couldn’t read anything for a long time

I wrote but I couldn’t read

I just started reading again


Are we taking off?

Are you going to put it in your archive?

No I don’t need it, I’ve lived it.

We’re going now, thanks

Nice to meet you



lynell and marisela

with Lynell George and Marisela Norte



Sunday, April 17 | 2:00–5:00pm | Craft and Folk Art Museum courtyard | Free and open to the public 

5814 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036 
(323) 937-4230 |

Bring your favorite Los Angeles stories to share with favorite local writers Lynell George, Sesshu Foster, and Marisela Norte, who will transcribe your words into poetry and prose using one of our typewriting stations. Participants are encouraged to bring their own typewriters to join in this special type-in event. This event is part of the cultural programs in conjunction with this year’s Big Read, honoring the work of Ray Bradbury. The Big Read is a program in partnership with Arts Midwest.

for more information:



Lynell George


Marisela Norte


Sesshu Foster




glad we could talk, my students came and enjoyed it—

later, i read some poems with Kenji Liu and Angela Peñaredondo

at the Kaya Press tent, and afterwards went round and caught

your reading at the poetry stage, where I saw the call

and response of “187 reasons mexicanos can’t cross the border”

caused passersby to stop in their tracks, turned their heads; they

drew forth under the trees to see what you were delivering

from the stage. this was before you closed, zapateando.

i should have joined you when they took you to sign books.

it started sprinkling, as it had been on and off all day

and like i had been, i was thinking about the lean girl,

my student who died two weeks ago, swept out by a wave

at santa monica beach, in sight of the pier and surely crowds

of hundreds of people on an ordinary saturday afternoon,

drowned. now there’s nothing to say about it, nothing to be done,

so i wandered through the tents, looking at the booths

full of books and booksellers, writers and readers, and

when i figured that we maybe still had time to talk,

i went back to “the green room” but i couldn’t locate

you—i did a circuit, walking through the crowd and the tents

in the off and on again drizzle, talked to David Shook

at Phoneme Books, bought his translations from the Zapotec,

i guessed soon you’d have minders escorting you onstage

at the award ceremony, though i could have let loose

the dogs of metaphor or raised a figurative hue and cry

as of metonymy, but let the mist in the air settle as it may.

thanks for the hour or more. let’s talk again! maybe

i’ll see Fresno, capital of poetry. hi to Margie!

dirigible poster


you were swept out to sea by a wave and drowned

you rode your bike through a puddle electrified by underground wires

crushed by a wheel that came bouncing, bounding over the center divider at 65 MPH

you died of an aneurysm no one ever suspected

it got dark and cold, cold

and i think about you every day, kid

even though we weren’t close

i don’t know what you thought of me, if anything (i figured you didn’t bother to think of me, because you were too busy trying to become the adult you were never given the chance to be)

but i respected you, kid. so hard working, so disciplined

(who even knew you were a kid? your family did. your little sister did.)

you were just a kid, really, after all. whatever i saw in the coffin had nothing to do with you. that wasn’t your destiny. you didn’t deserve what you got. your family didn’t deserve that.

i think about you, your smile, your grin— and what is there to say? now it all seems so pointless.

nothing to say and nothing to do about it now.

no way to go back, no way to fix anything, no way it will ever be different or better.

the steps can’t be retraced. that saturday never returns.

the chain of events, the accident, the circumstances. it’s as if whatever was real about all of it left with you, kid.

(i thought of my 3 year old nephew sucked inside a hole in a sea cave

by water that bubbled up out of a puddle he was sitting in,

and he disappeared in a hole in the side of a giant rock on the beach

i thought him lost underwater inside the black bowels of a cave—

but i ran through the surf to the mouth of the cave and absurdly, he emerged,

sitting up, screaming riding a wave like a surfer down into the crashing waves

and i snatched him up and he was saved, unhurt) but they could not save you and you were not saved.

i could be writing this about my other nephew who did die.

it doesn’t do your family or the rest of us any good, but i think of you daily. you were not in that coffin, kid, but in the unrealized events where i imagine you always will be.



People bunched outside of the chapel doors, SRO, trying to peer inside. Ribbons fluttered in the breeze, wide long ribbons from wreaths strung with their black phrases in English and Vietnamese. Wreaths and flowers lined the interior to the doors. One from an ER staff—I presumed—someone’s co-workers.

Incense at an alter, gilt packets, a large floral centerpiece around her photograph, and at one side, a small Buddha. Behind it, a tapestry of the Buddha. I had no view because of the press of people.

Leaves on a green lawn under big trees. Traffic on Main Street kitty corner from Ranch 99 Market. The minister spoke in Vietnamese. Men ducked in and out, whispering. She appeared to me, this girl, bearing up under the significant duress, of her time and ours, with an inward steeliness, an outward coldness.

As if begrudging words, sometimes she’d say goodbye. I thought it was mere shyness. She was lithe and strong, a distance runner. Sometimes I heard the goodbye. I looked up as she went to the door—the abrupt profile of her cheek so expressed the fierce determination that I admired and respected.

17 years old, swept out by a wave on the beach and drowned last Saturday, as if the world insisted on making the cruelest, most bitter gesture in the most obvious vacant way. Her friends wept as they spoke of their love for her. I waited my turn to speak. “Thank you for the honor of letting us know Thuy Tran,” I said, “thank you for the honor of allowing me to be her teacher.”

I clasped the hands of her brother, her sister and her mother, on the way out the side door. I said something to them. Her mother thanked me. Out in the sunshine, my cell phone chirped. Messages ticked into my cell phone, wishing me happy birthday.




juan felipe


Seeley G. Mudd (SGM 123)Ticket required; Signing Area 4

11:30 a.m.


Juan Felipe Herrera in conversation with Sesshu Foster
(Conversation 1092)

Interviewer: Sesshu Foster
Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe will also be reading at the festival’s Poetry Stage at 2:30 PM

Indoor Conversations require free tickets.

There are two ways to get Conversation tickets:


Advance Conversation tickets will be available from the website starting April 3, 9 a.m. A $1 service fee applies to each ticket. See

At the festival

A limited number of tickets for each Conversation is distributed at the festival ticketing booth on the day of the Conversation — free of service charges. The booth will open at 9 a.m. each day.

Guests with Conversation tickets must arrive 10 minutes before the scheduled Conversation start time to ensure seating.

a poem by Juan Felipe:

latest book:


Blood on the Wheel


     Ezekiel saw the wheel,
     way up in the middle of the air.

Blood on the night soil man en route to the country prison
Blood on the sullen chair, the one that holds you with its pleasure
Blood inside the quartz, the beauty watch, the eye of the guard
Blood on the slope of names & the tattoos hidden
Blood on the Virgin, behind the veils,
Behind—in the moon angel’s gold oracle hair
                    What blood is this, is it the blood of the worker rat?
                    Is it the blood of the clone governor, the city maid?
                    Why does it course in s’s & z’s?
Blood on the couch, made for viewing automobiles & face cream
Blood on the pin, this one going through you without any pain
Blood on the screen, the green torso queen of slavering hearts
Blood on the grandmother’s wish, her tawdry stick of Texas
Blood on the daughter’s breast who sews roses
Blood on the father, does anyone remember him, bluish?
                    Blood from a kitchen fresco, in thick amber strokes
                    Blood from the baby’s right ear, from his ochre nose
                    What blood is this?
Blood on the fender, in the sender’s shoe, in his liquor sack
Blood on the street, call it Milagro Boulevard, Mercy Lanes #9
Blood on the alien, in the alligator jacket teen boy Juan
                    There is blood, there, he says
                    Blood here too, down here, she says
                    Only blood, the Blood Mother sings
Blood driving miniature American queens stamped into rage
Blood driving rappers in Mercedes blackened & whitened in news
Blood driving the snare-eyed professor searching for her panties
Blood driving the championship husband bent in Extreme Unction
                   Blood of the orphan weasel in heat, the Calvinist farmer in wheat
                   Blood of the lettuce rebellion on the rise, the cannery worker’s prize
Blood of the painted donkey forced into prostitute zebra,
Blood of the Tijuana tourist finally awake & forced into pimp sleep again
It is blood time, Sir Terminator says,
It is blood time, Sir Simpson winks,
It is blood time, Sir McVeigh weighs.
                   Her nuclear blood watch soaked, will it dry?
                   His whitish blood ring smoked, will it foam?
                   My groin blood leather roped, will it marry?
                   My wife’s peasant blood spoked, will it ride again?
Blood in the tin, in the coffee bean, in the maquila oración
Blood in the language, in the wise text of the market sausage
Blood in the border web, the penal colony shed, in the bilingual yard
                    Crow blood blues perched on nothingness again
                    fly over my field, yellow-green & opal
                    Dog blood crawl & swish through my sheets
Who will eat this speckled corn?
Who shall be born on this Wednesday war bed?
Blood in the acid theater, again, in the box office smash hit
Blood in the Corvette tank, in the crack talk crank below
Blood boat Navy blood glove Army ventricle Marines
in the cookie sex jar, camouflaged rape whalers
Roam & rumble, investigate my Mexican hoodlum blood
                    Tiny blood behind my Cuban ear, wine colored & hushed
                    Tiny blood in the death row tool, in the middle-aged corset
                    Tiny blood sampler, tiny blood, you hush up again, so tiny
Blood in the Groove Shopping Center,
In blue Appalachia river, in Detroit harness spleen
Blood in the Groove Virus machine,
In low ocean tide, in Iowa soy bean
Blood in the Groove Lynch mob orchestra,
South of Herzegovina, south, I said
Blood marching for the Immigration Patrol, prized & arrogant
Blood spawning in the dawn break of African Blood Tribes, grimacing
& multiple—multiple, I said
Blood on the Macho Hat, the one used for proper genuflections
Blood on the faithful knee, the one readied for erotic negation
Blood on the willing nerve terminal, the one open for suicide
Blood at the age of seventeen
Blood at the age of one, dumped in a Greyhound bus
Blood mute & autistic & cauterized & smuggled Mayan
& burned in border smelter tar
                    Could this be yours? Could this item belong to you?
                    Could this ticket be what you ordered, could it?
          Blood on the wheel, blood on the reel
          Bronze dead gold & diamond deep. Blood be fast.

Juan Felipe Herrera, “Blood on the Wheel” from Border-crosser with a Lamborghini Dream. Copyright © 1999 by Juan Felipe Herrera.  Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: Border-crosser with a Lamborghini Dream (University of Arizona Press, 1999)







My transmitter is not broken, its unhappy, and why

Just because i have that flu

Where everything hurts, eyes hurt

From inside out

Head hurts like steel pincers, etc,

but we are alive fucking transmitter

Be happy

We are broadcasting

Live on this frequency even tho i cant keep my eyes open too long

the transmitter doesn’t care about the miracles of photosynthesis or phytoplankton

There are fish still in seas of plastic

There are children eating the crumbs and dust of buildings they used to live in

There was a couple with a little dog sitting on the neighbors steps watching the sun rise at 630 am

Immensity of the one star

Preceded by volcanic red brilliance of the sky

Over the low desert mountains, the strings of little urban lights of the san gabriel valley

All about to be silently overtaken by that major thing

Sunny new day

Still, little transmitter somehow not pleased by this vast new day

Because of the flu? Shut up and

Transmit this



ucla la poetry symposium

  • Pomona College
  • Ena Thompson Reading Room
  • 140 W. Sixth Street

Acclaimed Los Angeles poet, novelist and current visiting Pomona College Creative Writing Instructor Sesshu Foster reads from his work. Sesshu won a 2010 American Book Award and a 2009 Asian American Literary Award for World Ball Notebook. His book Atomik Aztex won the 2005 Believer Book Award, and his poems have been included in several anthologies.

camp ufo


July 2019
« Aug