Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier

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Unfinished Poem

All my life I straddle

Between light and shadow

Right and wrong

Vietnamese French

Gujarati English

Yin yang, boy girl

Mom dad

I straddle East-West

Tea coffee

Rice roti

Christianity Buddhism

Teeter tote Catholicism Islam

Saddle love on pointed hatred

Spanning the valley of indifference

Between you me

What could be that were left in the void

Between here and there

tall nose as forbidden as the summit of Himalaya

Skin too white or dark

Food too bland or too spicy

But come to think of it

Your chanting prayers heals deeply

And my singing halleluia gives wings to hope and forever love

You kneel with your forehead on the ground

And I with my upturned grace

That moment we are two spirits united with the Supreme

I am between logic and madness

Formulaic and spontaneously chaotic

I calculate my number of words

Aiming for the cold effectiveness of sentences

to the point

I die every day as I’m living

As I breathe air steadily polluted

My lungs declining with age

I kill in cold blood as I dismiss the Other

Unaware of their need for space, food, love, human connection

I lie as I’m telling the truth

So dark it’s unbelievable

As when I told her

Mom, let go, and die in peace.

I do not know how to draw

But with the alphabets I sketch

I release my balloons of thoughts in clusters

And hope that they carry a message to the wilderness above

I guide them, my children, like kites

sometimes they float so high and travel places

And dance and dip and flutter in the wind above people watching

But sometimes they got caught in tree branches

 dive straight down like a bird shot dead


More on Point of View

An old friend of mine’s dealing with a number of health issues.

The other day he told his doctor he just felt blessed to still be breathing.

His doctor nodded.

Then said to him, “It’s sometimes important to put things in perspective.  If you think about it, none of us are going to get out of this alive anyway.”

My friend replied his point was valid, but he had just hoped to be in the latest group possible to leave.



You Will Know Me

You will know me by my victory
By my pages written and poetry read
By each word, precise like a knife, each incision made closer to the pain oozing pus of illness

You will know me by my laughter
Bursting out, an escape of happiness
Like a balloon filled with healthy breath of life
By my devotion and aspiration for the positiveness
The beautiful, soulful, light and airy as puffs of spring clouds

You will only know me by my best foot forward
My painted face for the stage, my line well rehearsed
The story belongs to somebody else, a protagonist
Her dramas, frictions, her mountains and valleys of inspirations gone wrong and love that was supposed to triumph but perish.

You will not know me by the ordinaries of everyday’s life
of rice cooked too wet or food spoiled uneaten
Sorrows seep out from my vein like water from a pinhole leak
Undetected under my foundation until the slab gives out or the telltale pooled visibly
My failed hope and abandoned efforts, multiple rejections, some told straight to my face, other by vague dismissals, and still others with vehement rebukes
Until I see no more hope, no more sun, no more dreams alive and no faith left in me.

You will not know me even then
Because like a ragged weed I cling on tediously on the side of a cracked sidewalk
Like a mole I dig deeper and tunnel my way upward and out
In maddened little hills that sadden a well-manicured yard, a sorry sight to the eyes of the untrained but what a survival,
What a resistance to the artist’ eyes who has learned to see the manifestations of love, of life
Like a worm, my hacked segments multiply and filled again with new blood and new determinations to fertilize
this earth
With each ingestion of rotten discards of decay of dead lives
I infuse
I refuse to depart unnoticed
to be denied of my right to be and blossom
of muted voice and ridiculed personality
I will not be fictitious, a character given a role to play
to build up someone else’s fiction
I am real
And you will know me
Even when it will be too late
for me
for you
It won’t be too late for the world to come
And you will know me
With my strength cut short and my pain alive
As much as when I am at my best
My achievements glorified and my lips full, well drawn, stretched into queenly smiles and my neck high.


Awakening: the Afterlife

It always freaks me out when I learn of a divorce. Friendships, relationships with cousins or my own siblings I can live without, even children will eventually have their own lives, but marriage is a sacred bond to me. The agony of marital failure, to my imagination, is like the pain caused by one’s dismemberment. How can one possibly grow another limb to replace the missing one?
My mother, who disliked pets to the point where she allowed a dogcatcher (in Vietnam it means a dog eater) to come and take away my pet dog, Kiki, because he had the habit of darting outside our gate and terrorizing the street urchins—biting sometimes, used to tell us, “One may even learn to love a dog after living with it.”
As my mother’s daughter, however, I grew up getting easily attached to things I owned, animate as well as inanimate objects. I seemed to imprint myself upon my surroundings: my pets, my room, my pen, books, walls, home, streets I walked on….I felt a certain loyalty to everything that populated my world. I would defend them with a sword if I had to, if I possessed such a sword and lived in such a time that allowed killing or dismembering of enemies.
All of the above is to say, after four years owning my iPhone 4s, I mourned its untimely death deeply. Methinks, ridiculous of me to think this a sudden departure, since four years for a delicate, obsolete-prone gadget is way up there in age. Plus, it had been giving signs of deterioration, and if I had been less sentimental, I should have taken action to replace it.
For three solid days, I pondered my next steps to dispose my dear cell phone. Sentiment aside, it held many of my important (the correct lingo is sensitive) information. Just to give my reader an idea, it had a few pictures of my belly fat, the ones I took of myself in front of the mirror in scantily-clad items, just to have a good honest assessment of my physical state. On it reside a few last video clips of my father, when he stared out bewildered to me, a stranger, a meanie fart who forced him to get off the pee-soaked bed, who kept asking him questions that he had no idea what they meant, who told him she wasn’t his dear mother, but his own daughter. He had no memory of being married, left alone fathering children. She dared say he had nine. He wished he could slap her arrogant face. As if she knew better than him about his own life.
On the third day of my cell phone’s death, I ordered a new cell phone because I had no more options, because the deadline to get a discount from Costco for such a device was that day, and because my family was traveling abroad and could only communicate with me sporadically through Facetime, iMessage, Skype, or email, and none of these were within reach unless I sat glued to my computer screen all day long, which I did, for those last three days, frustration mounting with a temporary flip phone borrowed from my daughter. After the order was confirmed I gathered all the spare chargers and my 4s for a burial ritual. And it did feel like one!
It was in my most desperate moments that I behaved most Catholic-like. I still hoped for a miracle, just like over a year ago I had thought, if I kept at it, bringing Dad out to sunbathe and let him listen to classical music, feed him this new powder my sister-in-law was raving about to be a wonder supplement, the course of his illness would slow down, maybe even reverse. In that same burning hope I plugged my three-day dead 4s in for the last time. I had plugged it in many hours previously, I must admit, switching to different outlets because I didn’t want to assume anything, exchanging chargers, blah-blah-blah. A good engineer is one who always begins with the simplest formula, such as, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. If it doesn’t turn on, check the battery, check the on-off switch, or check your mental acumen before attempting to repair. When I concluded that my 4s was dead, I had gone through my whole checklist.
Still, my hope burned bright. Still, I plugged the dead, cold as ice body of my 4s in to give it a last chance. So that I could part with it without regret, for “I have done all I could!”
I went about my chores to get my mind off the funeral process. After I had washed the dishes, cleaned the kids’ rooms, vacuumed the floor, folded the clothes, there was nothing left to occupy me further. I went back to my study to check on the body of my 4s lying in state on the floor by the outlet. Its face was blank and dark, just like I had expected. I unplugged it for the last time. This, I knew, was the final goodbye, because even hope was dead.
After I wound the cord up, I couldn’t resist the urge to push on my 4s’ home button. It was a hard-wired habit, like checking for its presence in my purse before heading out, like turning myself around in front of the mirror for a final inspection before taking off to make sure my bra straps didn’t stick out conspicuously or my socks mismatched or my hose ripped.
My dad had nine lives. He outlived his last, unfortunately. Born in a three-generation Catholic family, I called each of his rebound a resurrection. For fear of being labeled blasphemous, I was afraid to apply the same term to an inanimate object that is nothing but a consumer good, silicon-filled and soul-less. But you see, when my naked eyes perceived the lit up screen of my three-day dead 4s, I believed I experienced what the women of biblical time experienced when they walked into Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. His body was nowhere to be found inside the burial chamber, or otherwise stated, he was gone from the place where his body should be. In Jesus’ case the women had thought the Romans had removed his body and done something sacrilegious to it. In my case, I had no doubt about what I saw: my 4s relived. It came back as good as new. It awoke from the dark world beyond. It was given a second life.

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Connection Chart

circleofrelationshipMake a chart about you
and your relationship
put yourself
in the middle
by your inner circle

list names dear to you
names you call
for a kiss
a tea, in a shouting match
names you wake
names you feed
names of whose birth dates
you celebrate
Names of those
you depend on
to love you.


Draw an outer circle
List friends, people you meet
daily, monthly
people you know
who know you.


Then in the last circle
maybe your co-workers,
your team players,
church members,
You know,
people who drop in
and out of your life.


and at the fours corners
drop in random people
the mailman, your dog groomer
“enlighten witness, yes?”
Mary asks,
“people you meet briefly
but impact your life.”


“Yes,” our workshop leader
seizes the thought


Once, as I was about
to cross the street
I did look left, right, then left,
and the street was empty, safe.


as I put my foot out
a voice shouted, “Stop”
just as a car zoomed by.


I looked up, just long enough
to meet a man’s face
from far away.
just long enough to wave, yell, “Thank you,”
to the receding back of
my life saver


We never
cross path again.
You’ re right. He should be there
on my chart
perhaps on
a different layer,
from atop.


“Maybe we need
the Galactic Quadrant,”
someone blurts
as I draw a heart
and within it write


My pen hovers.
Of course,
the first names
should be
my husband’s
and children’s


I love them.
But do they
Do they love me?
My pen


Do I depend on them
to the point I’ d die
for them
and they for me.


It’s ambiguous. It’s a hard question.
It’s a hard question
anyone has to answer
with words.


I came to this life
the dark length
of my mother’s cave


She helped
but all depended
on my strength,
will, instinct,
my fate.


and when I pass,
I’ll sure fumble along
in the darkness
of death
not knowing
where I’m going
knowing only
I’ m flickering,
by myself
no longer being.


But the workshop gets
even harder when
I have to write
about myself
from the perspective
of another.


It never dawns
on me
I should know
what others think
of me.


It never once
crosses my mind
that I should care.


They might get me right.
They mostly size me wrong.
they mostly box me in
and simplify.


A woman. An Asian.
A mother. A writer.
too categorical, too well- defined.
Why bother?


Why can’t I be
a star
in a million galaxies
a billion light-year
from the next star
inscrutable, immeasurable,
full of possibilities
even deadly.


A Tribute to Marilyn Jensen

My first novel, “McCarley’s Edge” had been struggling to escape from my head and hand for some time. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Marilyn Jensen for abetting the escape.

Years ago, Marilyn was leading a writer’s workshop at the East Whittier YMCA. She informed me in no uncertain terms that Maggie McCarley — a minor foil in another story I was writing — was competing detrimentally with the main protagonist. Consequently, Maggie got un-shuffled. And now stars in her own right.

When I saw Ms. Jensen was a member of WCW I was greatly looking forward to getting reacquainted. Sadly, I learn I just missed her by a few weeks. I still tremble when I hear her favorite constructive criticism: “Condense! Condense! Condense!”

(I’ll try, Marilyn, I’ll try. But I’m afraid I’m hopeless!)

Steve Enyart, WCW, Class of 2014

Editor’s Note: Marilyn Jensen, a longtime member and frequent office holder of the Writers’ Club of Whittier, died this past October and is sorely missed.

Grief, a poem by Clair Khoeler
A Tribute to Marilyn Jensen, a poem by Hong-My Basrai