I Saw You at Church Today – Written by Blanca Jones

Dear Jesus,

I saw you at church today, in the upraised arms of a man as he worshiped our Father God.  As his words overflowed with love, singing to our Heavenly Father, I heard your voice.  As he swayed with joy filling his very spirit I saw yours within him.  I watched you my Lord, drawn by your love as you shun through the spirit of this man, whom I did not know.  I knew it was you.

I pointed you out to my young son who stood at my side and he too recognized you, his face lighting up with a genuine joyous smile.  I saw you in this man who so reminded me of my very own brother who I carry in my prayers.  You know him Jesus.  My heart began to yearn, then I heard you Lord as you spoke to me, “Your brother too will soon be as this man, filled with my spirit as he outwardly portrays his love in worship and upraised arms.  Be comforted my daughter, rejoice in the knowledge that I carry your brother in the palm of my hand.  You entered my heart and brought me peace.

I was moved to speak to this man as the morning service came to an end to tell him how his love for you touched my heart, how you radiated through his very being!  I had to tell him the blessing he was to me this morning.  I gave him my brief story, you know it, you heard it, you were there, and he gave me his.

Blanca Jones welcomes feedback on her writing and may be reached at blancajones@att.net.

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Book Review: The Road to Guanajuato by Joe Livernois (Reviewed by Sarah Melton)

Sometimes reflection upon ones past is the best possible way to get a glimpse into ones future.  Mr. Livernois’ detailed and refreshingly candid account of a reunion with his 80 year old estranged father, The Road to Guanajuato, is a prime example of such.

Joe Livernois was the eldest child in a large Catholic family, with a severely bipolar father and a hardworking (and often self-sacrificing) mother.  They grew up fast in a flurry of fear, disappointment, uncertainty, and all the usual chaos that comes with living with a mentally unbalanced parent.  After a particularly mortifying encounter with his father in his adult life, they parted ways and remained estranged for nearly 23 years…until a series of events caused them to reconnect online, eventually leading to an apprehensive gathering of the Livernois siblings and thier father, to celebrate his 80th birthday – in the small, traditional village of Loma, Mexico.

Yes, he’s in Loma.  Not Guanajuato, the town his father had originally attempted to journey to, but the quirky, unexpected place he wound up.  Much like the writers own life and the lives of his siblings, this story isn’t about reaching the destination they were working towards, but the unexpected and often eye-opening experiences that can happen to make that previously sought destination seem well-nigh irrelevant by comparison.

The events of the trip, many of which involved attempts at entertainment interrupted by the uncontrolled outbursts of his infirm father, were not so much the driving force of the memoir as the emotions and insight gained during those times. The heart of the story was found amid the simplest of conversations, as well as the searching reflections on the authors own fears and insecurities as a parent & husband, his religious upbringing, and his perceptions of the people around him.  While not without bias in some respects (i.e. his views on Catholicism and his initial apprehension towards certain aspects of Mexican culture) it’s overall as honest and searching as an account this personal can be.

About the reviewer: Sarah Melton is a published author. You can find a number of her short stories in the Flash Fiction collections at www.absolute-x-press.com.
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Art by Azar Vaghefi

ARTIST BIO

Azar Vaghefi is a very passionate artist who depicts nature, color and light in her artwork. She is very inspired by the effect of sunlight when water runs on top of colorful stones, and she thrives to achieve the same magical feel through paint on canvas. She is also an expert on abstract expressionistic collage work. Her recent work incorporates a number of different materials on canvas. Layers of transparent paint over pieces of paper and fabric, creates a harmony with these objects and the canvas, uniting them in one highly expressive work of art. Graduating from Tehran Academy of Art, she got her PhD in Istanbul, Turkey. She had a number of exhibitions all over Iran, Turkey and the USA. Some of the galleries she works with include the Art People Gallery in San Francisco, Aspect Gallery and she was elected as the President of San Francisco Women Artists’ organization in April 2010. Currently she works in her studio in San Francisco. You can watch her TV interview in the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfTpqf8L1aI

Azar Vaghefi
Blog: www.azar-vaghefi.blogspot.com
Contact Info: azarvaghefi3@gmail.com

Art by Queena Hernandez

ARTIST BIO

Queena Hernandez is an artist living and working in San Francisco, where she earned her MFA degree in painting at California College of the Arts. Inspirations for her watercolor pieces are particularly culled from ink and wash paintings, Japanese woodblock prints, and modern landscape design.

Exploring the idea of the unknown and the mythologies one creates in response, her work seeks to communicate an imagined world in a state of physical interruption. Drawing inspiration from natural disasters, 16th century explorers’ journals, science fiction, and the supernatural, she is interested in addressing issues regarding unexplained weather phenomena, the authority of nature, vulnerability of mankind, and humanity’s transition into a frighteningly unpredictable future.

www.queenahernandez.com

Excerpt from Pam Benjamin’s recent book, “The Pigeon Chronicles or Bike Messenger Assassins”

“Fuck man, I haven’t had a solid shit in three weeks.”  Bucket fell out of the bar bathroom steadying him self with the chewed and beaten booth. He had an unlit joint between his lips. “Whiskey shits are the shit.”  He meant “the shit” as a positive thing.

“Three weeks?  High class problems you got there. I’m going on three years.” Condor spun his back field plastic men in red before throwing the little white ball wildly into the slot.

Bucket scored from his goalie, again. “That’s me.  All class.  I’m one classy son of a shit.”

“Yeah, ass butter, man. That’s what I’m talking about.  Any shit is a satisfying one.” Condor tried to throw the white ball back in the slot and missed the table horribly sending it flying to the frowning morning tender.  He began to sing to a vague Cat Steven’s tune, “Morning ass-plosion, my tummy’s warning…”  He even warbled a sort of vibrato on “warning”.

“Yo, Streisand, I got your jazz hands and fake lashes in my bag if you wanna drag queen us outa here.”  Retch chuckled low at his own joke. “You dicks need to eat some fucking bird seed.  Get some god-damned fiber in your diet and stop your bitchin’. You gonna start the fucking game or what?”

The Pigeon Chronicles or Bike Messenger Assassins by Pam Benjamin
Published by Ink. San Francisco
Episode 3

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Opera San José’s Tosca: A review by Patsy Ledbetter

I sat in awesome wonder watching San Jose Opera’s glorious Opera, “Tosca” on Sunday afternoon, the 28th of November. The story of an opera diva brought down by the chief of Rome’s secret police, Tosca is dramatic and compelling.  The beautiful music, drama and passion were displayed breathtakingly by all of the cast.  The leading lady, Floria Tosca was portrayed by Rebecca Davis.  She captured the audience with Puccini’s lovely melodies.  Mario Cavaradossi, was brilliantly portrayed by Christopher Bengochea.  The evil Baron Scarpia was Torlef Borsting. His dramatic performance was captivating. Cesare Angelotti, the political prisoner was Krassen Karagiozov.  He was very convincing in his role.  Several adorable children were seen as alter boys. The the entire company was powerful every time they sang as a group.  The conductor, David Rohrbaugh was extremely entertaining as he managed to lead the orchestra magnificently.  Set designer, Erik Flatmo made each member of the audience give special attention to his art work. The costumes by Elizabeth Poindexter were especially beautiful and the lighting by Kent Dorsey was perfect.  I had a wonderful afternoon visiting the opera and am encouraging anyone interested to check out the next performance at the Opera San Jose during it’s 27th season.

www.operasj.org: Boxoffice@operasj.org

Patsy Ledbetter may be reached at patsyled@sbcglobal.net.

The Red and the Black – Lessons of the High Andes, by Benjamin Hersh

“Mercy.” The word dripped out between tortured inhalations. Two splattered men stood over a prostrate Spencer Wallace, pale and bloody amid musty heaps of contracts and financial records that lay strewn across the floor.
“Let’s bury the bastard alive,” said Lefty. He reached down and with a brusque motion, took the wounded man’s belt buckle to replace his own. The size of a clenched fist, it boasted a cracked turquoise pebble at its center, surrounded by ornate silverwork that glittered red in the windowless office. Lefty had delicate hands and smelled of damp soil. He looked of it as well.
“Best leave burying for the campesinos,” replied Ezra with a cool voice. “He’s staying put.” A quiet steel buckle shone at Ezra’s waist, the image of a soaring vulture etched into its weathered surface by expert hands. His mother had always told him that “Ezra” means “help” in Hebrew; in 1937, the July 14 edition of Diario los Andes, the national paper, christened him “Pancho the Unrepentant.” Ezra straightened his hat and pocketed a handful of gold coins, taken from a pile near his feet. He and Lefty wandered outside to rejoin Solon and their filibuster company, leaving the door ajar behind them and the wheezing Spencer Wallace alive to chew on their impunity.
“Law’s at our backs,” said Ezra. “I say head where it don’t reach. Lord help us if they find us.”
Nineteen in all, the freebooters left on horseback for Cayambe, a downhill pueblo where events of consequence and autonomy were rumored to occur. Ezra rode first, followed by Lefty and Solon and the rest.
“Ezra, it’s a mistake to go down this way,” said Solon. “If we head any deeper inland, there’s no chance we’ll ever find a boat back home.”
“It’s only deeper for us, my friend,” said Ezra. “We’ve got a whole continent for the taking, and I won’t have you aching for Roosevelt’s teat. We’ve come this far. The gun’s our New Deal.”
“Besides, no boat would take us, not after what we’ve done,” said Lefty. “It’s best to go Ezra’s way. Might be good things waiting for us.” Lefty could not bare the thought of crossing Ezra.
The long and easygoing road offered a wide view of the open countryside below. They saw Mt Cayambe’s frozen peak in the crystal distance and the desertous plains below it. It is said that from its heights, a man of able eyes could see Ecuadorian Quito to the west, and Bolivian Cochabamba to the far south. Emperor Norton once swore that, after two years of constant staring, he could distinctly see the Brazilian coast to the east. Uncountable oil wells decorated the frigid hillsides, and from a long way off looked like flies absorbing an earthy carcass. A sea of hungry rose plantations lay along the bottom of the valley, threatening to conquer the slopes above as they grew.
Tall agave stalks leaned over the road in sparse clusters, marking the borders between plots of fallow land. From one cluster emerged a small child, naked and chapped and sanguine in complexion. The riders slowed their pace and made big faces for the child. Ezra called hello in English, then Spanish, but it only stared back like a cornered barn owl, wide eyed and unblinking.
“Kid looks of speaking age. Must be dumb.”
“Maybe she don’t speak English. Or Spanish. Anyone know a word of Quichua?”
The child pointed to Ezra, and the riders fell silent. “Dead.” The child waded backwards into the agave, eyes fixed on Ezra as she disappeared. They kept going and said nothing of the encounter.
In their silence, they came across a weathered old man a short distance down the road, bobbing on a skeletal rocking chair and cradled in the shadow of a sickly banyan tree. The rails of the chair were planted in parallel troughs of leathery roots and bristles of gray hair formed patches across the man’s gaunt face. Pale, perhaps a Mennonite. A worried smile, and a look of mischief shone in his cloudy eyes as he scanned the riders. “You don’t know what you’re riding into, friends.”
“We know.”
“No. Abulín is waiting.”
“Who is Abulín?”
The old man stopped his chair and fell silent. His teeth clenched shut. The riders could hear their beating hearts in the stillness. Lefty felt his insides contort. Ezra spat and resumed the road. The old man began to bob again, cursing and muttering as they passed.
Neither Ezra nor his retinue uttered a word, not a sound rising above their horses’ labored breathing in the thin mountainous ether. Their hooves touched quietly upon the dirt path and their sullen wet eyes blinked with lazy abandon. A number of autochthonous campesinos shuffled along the road in twos and threes, carrying water and roses and tubers in buckets and pails. None spoke, but only continued with their business as if the riders were not there. Their lowered faces suspended like bowls of cochineal jasper, hairless relics of the soil.
A long silence down the road, a stocky rose vendor stopped them. He held a dozen tattered flowers and frantically warned them of Abulín Machado, the burning spirit of Cayambe. He quivered when he said the name.
“Abulín Machado is a firestorm in boots.”

Benjamin studied words and brains at Stanford University, and now works for a public radio program in San Francisco. His fiction has something to do with his experiences traveling in Latin America, and he enjoys Melville, McCarthy, and Neruda, each more than the last. He may be reached at mostlycogent@gmail.com.

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Approbations, poetic sketches by Felino Soriano

Approbations 761
—after Miles Davis’ Flamenco Sketches (Alternate Take)

Alone she
wore
the want of
her mirror’s stilled ideology.  Mimesis
paralleled her walking fathoms:
of hope
or harm
either recollections
natural fractions of day’s
independent disposition.  Her scent a
dance of secret rhythms, a
cadence of misery
releasing its
topical grip                 combining now’s
relevant backward style of remorseful indications.

Felino A. Soriano (b. 1974) is a case manager and advocate for adults with developmental and physical disabilities. In 2010, he was chosen for the Gertrude Stein “rose” prize for creativity in poetry from Wilderness House Literary Review.  Philosophical studies collocated with his connection to classic and avant-garde jazz explains motivation for poetic occurrences.  For information, including his 38 print and electronic collections of poetry, over 2,400 published poems, interviews, and editorships, please visit his website: www.felinoasoriano.info.

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