Sunday, June 4, 2017

Amber Smithers, Bea Garth, and Shasta Hatter

Now that I've transferred my blog-zine files from my old computer to my brand new one, I am going to begin posting poems from the fall/winter/spring contest!

I'll start with a powerful poem that Amber Smithers sent me a while back.

He Doesn’t Hit You But 

He doesn’t hit you but before you started dating he said you looked ugly with chipped nails and acne. 
He doesn’t hit you but he tells you that you look ugly.
He doesn’t hit you but he tells you you look beautiful with a lot of make up on.
He doesn’t hit you but you start wearing makeup every time you FaceTime him.
He doesn’t hit you but makes you feel bad for not calling him when he asked. 
He doesn’t hit you but he tells you you would look better if you gained weight, that he likes girls who look like your best friend. 
He doesn’t hit you but he tells you he thinks stretch marks and sagging boobies are ugly, so you hide your body when he asks you to undress. 
He doesn’t hit you but he tells you about him beating a woman up before.
He doesn’t hit you but he makes you feel like he should. 
He doesn’t hit you but he tells you you are worthless.
He doesn’t hit you but he said why would someone like me want someone like you.
He doesn’t hit you but he says he wants to beat the shit out of you. 
He doesn’t hit you but he threatens to come to your house and pull you by your hair and make you tell everyone that he wasn’t your boyfriend.  
He doesn’t hit you but he tried to talk to me a week after we broke up.
He doesn’t hit you but maybe if he did people would have believed he said this to me. 
He doesn’t hit you but for 2 years I looked over my shoulder thinking he would make good on his threat.
He doesn’t hit you but I had a nightmare that he found my new address and beat the shit out of me. 
He doesn’t hit you but he did hurt you.

I think that Bea Garth's "Transfixed" creates a good transition.  At any rate, it is a very timely poem.


We are deer
looking up
at the headlights,
our movements caught in a frieze
the shapes of our bodies
and the woods around us
etched in the probing light.

by Bea Garth

Bea's other poems are non-driving poems set in the Pacific Northwest.


My trench-coat glistens with spattered drops of rain
as I settle into my seat next to a small woman
who fingers her silver embroidered ring
while she chatters Vietnamese.
At the next stop everyone crinkles their eyes
and nods and shakes their heads at a gray haired man
who explains he missed his stop thinking of his girlfriend.
The young man in front of me gets up yet hesitates to leave
my field of vision suddenly encompassed by his dark, curly hair
raindrops still clinging to the ends of the strands like crystals on a chandelier.
A small brown haired girl in a yellow vinyl coat
smiles slightly at the push as bodies jostle,
the aisles boggled with legs and bedraggled, dank, dripping clothes.
I stare outside at the darkening gray sky and remember
swimming in San Carlos Bay near Guaymas, Mexico
amongst the blue and yellow striped fish, reveling in the clear, warm water
while avoiding the sharp out-crops and my suppressed terror
when an eel swam next to me.
I close my coat tighter and fix my scarf
then raise my hand to pull the cord: its my stop
and the rain is falling like liquid beads
bouncing on the sidewalk. 

by Bea Garth


You say you are from Alberta
stranded somehow—but I don’t smoke
and hardly have the change to get home
still I think I’d like to take a picture if I could—
black straight hair matted across your wide brown face,
frank black browed eyes molded with a slight fold—
a mental click as I admire you putting it on the line
panhandling without a scarf or hat
while parents herd their children in soft grey wool caps
red mittens, pink and blue picture books
—like Mother Goose laying the Golden Egg—
the contrasts make me a bit crazy this time of year
and I would like to talk with you
but it’s getting damn cold
and I run, ears red, and catch the wrong bus.

by Bea Garth


We climbed nearly to the top
passing the deep purple/blue iris
and the oak sprouting
tight shiny yellow/green leaves
amongst their hair moss covered limbs.
A tangled hedge of poison oak
and blackberries hid us from the path
as we lay upon the open grass
and held each other, feeling the late
spring sun drench our bodies
and open us up as if we were blossoms.

When dusk came I walked sideways 
beside you on that last steep slope
coming down, and breathed deeply—
smelling the fresh air
thinking of the wild iris
and the pale green yarrow
rubbing our socks as we kissed. 

by Bea Garth


I walk on gritty snow stained streets
and wonder at the drone of an old woman
rocking back and forth on an iron grate,
warm air slightly billowing her thin gray coat,
belongings flanking her feet,
her eyes rolled back in a constant flicker
while she mutters for days, weeks,
words no one can fathom.

by Bea Garth


I sit beside a young man at the bus stop.
His slanted eyes, ash-blond hair,
legs folded lotus fashion
make me think of you. He is eating
a filled donut, enjoying each morsel
with rocking sighs, ducking his head and body
in rhythmic motion. I want to say hello
and have him declare “You my frien’!”
elbows in, clenched hands out—beaming.
Instead I catch myself
remembering that dream I had
when I learned you would have to wait
several years before you could go to school,
and that if you learned to read at all
it would be like turning a quail 
into an eagle. You had become trapped
in a house spinning high up in the air,
I woke up screaming: “You can’t fly!”
—afraid the house would come crashing—
and ran to Mom and Dad’s bedside,
my first and only time.

I turn to look at the young man
next to me. His thick, stubbed fingers
are twisted around the clasps
of his lunch pail, eyes concentrated
while he holds his breath then sighs.
Soon, we both stand up, hearing
the electric click of the approaching bus.

Mom says sometimes you miss your bus,
and then walk back and forth, pacing
for several hours until either she or Dad 
happen to drive down through their orchard 
and out onto the road, or you get hungry
for a mustard sandwich and trudge back up
the street to Grandma’s.

I remember the first word you said:
you were entranced by Grandpa’s gilt-edged
mirror and called it “Beautiful,” leaves
and grapes twining copiously in an elongated
oval. This, despite the high arch
to your palate, the near-sightedness
of your eyes. Yet your drawings are frenzied
scribblings, black on black on white. 

Mom has always worried a little
about the straight line
running across my left palm—it looks
just like yours. Me? I wish I had 
your ability to tell Dad “No way!”
while the rest of us lie sucked,
mummified like small, winged insects
caught in his arachnoidal tracery.
When I ask you questions,
you like to double-up your arms, smile,
then say: “Why naturally!” “Consequently,”
“Maybe,” or “But, of course!”
—making Mom and Dad wonder why
we hug each other, laugh and cry
when they can never make you budge:
Dad weaving chaos like thick, misshapen
sweaters; Mom ruling lawyer-like,
unable to interpret the smallest smile.

Grandpa liked to call you “Big Boy”
and take you out on Sunday drives.
Sometimes I’d join you in his
1942 Buick, grey upholstery
looking like a felt hat, the plastic knobs
shining like yellowed ivory,
the steering wheel covered with leather.
We’d pretend we were in a high-class tank
and shoot the passing strangers.

At home, I’d read you and our younger brother
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
or Jungle Jim, though you seemed to prefer
the free-for-all of The Three Stooges.
Your worst epithet was “You’re stupid!”
and then you’d pound your head like Larry
and start to wrestle (it took me years
before my ex-husband got me to stop kicking 
his shins as an aside). But most
of the time we’d share things,
like  crackers spread with peanut butter,
or forts where I’d stand lookout
while you burned small, clean holes
on black Alka Seltzer advertisements in Readers Digest,
the sun’s rays narrowing
through your magnifying glass.

I can just about see you
getting off the bus
after a day at the workshop, happy,
having kissed your girlfriend.
You walk past Grandma’s iris bed,
the green leaves looking like swords,
the blooms translucent and brittle as ancient papyri;
past the prune trees, some bent and fallen,
encircled by poison oak sprouting flame-licked leaves,
and up the steep, hairpin driveway
where Dad turned a road-grader on its side.

The young man has gotten in ahead of me,
sits on  the seat behind the bus-driver,
his short wide head bent down,
his fingers forming parenthesis.
Soon he is joined by two others;
the air fills with thick, lisped words,
grunts, laughter while the young men
jostle each other from side to side. 

by Bea Garth

Bio: Bea Garth’s honest approach to sensuality mixes a sublime earthiness with a love of nature through her figurative painting, ceramic sculpture and poetry. She has decades of experience organizing and hosting poetry and art events both in Oregon and California. She has been editing Eos: The Creative Context since 2008, an online progressive e-zine devoted to poetry, visual art and social, political, metaphysical and health commentary. Newly married, Bea has recently moved to Vancouver, WA where she is now often found painting in her studio or editing in the office while her husband works on clean technology articles or thinks of a new musical composition. She has previously had poems and artwork published in a variety of small press magazines including Alchemy, Poetic Space, Denali, Coyote’s Dance, The Other Paper, The Song Is, Writing For Our Lives, Caesura, Fresh Hot Bread, Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts, DMQ Review (featured artist) and the poetry anthologies Elegant Stew, Women’s Dreams/Women’s Visions and Song of Los Gatos. Examples of her work can be found at .  Feel free to submit work for her e-zine at

Northwest poet Shasta Hatter has also entered the non-driving contest with a poem and a haiku.

Commuting Home
By Shasta Hatter

Rattling through the night
Silent, separate, alone.
A young woman swears loudly
At her wireless companion.
No one reacts to this,
It is too common for notice.
The boys in oversized jeans
Slouch on the upper deck 
And glare out at no one.
Laughing babies roll on and off
Accompanied by unseen mothers.
A woman calls out to someone boarding the train.
Laughing, they greet each other.
They always laugh when they greet each other.
They speak of men, politics, children.
Today they decide to boycott diamonds,
And we all smile at our sudden wealth.

First published in Rose City Review, Dec, 2015.

Morning Commute

crow caws sound over
clatter of train's arrival
we both have to fly

Shasta Hatter is returning to poetry after an eighteen year absence.
 In 1998, she started taking a medication that let
her function but seemed to strip away her poetry. In May, 2016 she 
decided to write a haiku every day for a month. This discipline gave her
back her poetry. Recently, she has been published in Setting Forth, 
Haiku Journal, and Eos:The Creative Context..

Last night my husband and I went to Reginald Cyntje's concert in Gaithersburg, so I will post a few of his videos from YouTube.  I'll start with a live version of his "Atonement."  Allyn Johnson is the pianist.  Christie Dashiell is the singer.

A more stripped down version of "Daybreak" was part of the encore in Gaithersburg:

The next song is "Yellow" live at Twins:

I have to include this video of Cyntje at Bohemian Caverns:

I will finish with "Orange," which includes his current pianist Hope Udobi:

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