Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier

Leave a comment

First Tankas

2016 Feb HB Tanka

With Hiroko Falkenstein (my tanka teacher)


Is it music or

math—I am counting on my

fingers like a child

My thought runs away it runs

free from the too strict counting.


Tanka is tango

lulls me into a rhythm

tap tap side side step

paper and pen sashaying

to the music of my thought.


It’ll be natural

to breathe in 5 7 5

7 7 stop

Morse-like, smoke signals, heart beats

silent then sound then sound then…


It prevents you to

think too rashly, force you to


think! Absorb! Soak in, drink deep!

become a tanka itself.





State of Suspension

Letter D


Know that I’m supposed to be cleaning

There are ants in the kitchen

Lines of tiny, moving black dots

Moving around my counter top

Under the baseboard

Inside the sink

But I’d rather write

And feel my fingers moving across the keyboard

let lines of black words forming

Across the white screen

Know that I’m supposed to continue that chapter eight of my novel

And move the plot along

Build some tension and climb toward a climax

But I’m stuck in the act

And want to escape into poetry

Know that I want to achieve so many things

That my little business of maintaining life is an impediment

I’d rather muse on what to do

To control—or permit my protagonist to go where she’s heading

What she wants out of life

how she can move from here to there

Without leaping off the pages

and leave the readers aghast and confounding

At her disappearing act.

Is it a plot twist?

A gaff?

The author’s craft not fully developed?

Or is it simply the process of life?

As disorganized and compulsive as the heart and mind a living person allows

Free to wipe her sweaty brow

And execute a closing bow

The curtain falls

The end.

Time to clean up!

1 Comment

Political Poem

2014 feb 012To have a clear idea of who I am
And not be beaten into submission
Different, multidimensional, fluid and firm at the same time
to stand tall
to look squarely into the face of so-called authority
of whatever…
Religion, institution, clan, group, organization
And beg your pardon, but I’m not quite part of the agreement,
Despite what I’ll get as offer
The inclusion, approval, amicability, even love.

I’ll come and eat your body and drink your blood
If you will embrace me as I am
Belligerent, strong willed, proud, combative
It is my life you are talking about
the only time I get to experience
to touch the untouchable and taste the unholy
And if it is sinful to love too many and too much
To accept love as is
Nonconvertible, unacceptable
I sin. And not be sorry for being human
for letting my heart of flesh beat,
A second lost each beat
an eternity forsaken
for this, only this moment.

1 Comment

MAL Report – Night At The Museum


The other night I had the opportunity to attend a poetry open mic night here in uptown Whittier.

I was excited to attend the gala event as a newly coined member at large (MAL) of the Writer’s Club of Whittier. (Thanks for the acronym, Bill Gray.)

I should preface the following remarks here by stating up front I’m not entirely clear what all this fuss about poetry is about. I suspect that’s to be expected when you send out an unschooled provincial to an upscale cosmopolitan cultural event.

I’ve heard there’s a cosmological theory suggesting alternate universes. I’m not entirely certain however they’re all parallel.

These budding poets looked like and resembled earthlings but I suspect some good number may have been interlopers.

One word best described the experience: painful.

At several points I thought we were being treated to a thesaurus recitation.

That’s not to say there weren’t some bright shining luminaries, however. Our own Bill Gray, for one, reading a poem about his grandfather. Another by a young comedian. And even one brilliant monologue by the night’s featured performance poet entitled, Where Are My Keys?

His Keys monologue was essentially a man bemoaning his fate. The fact his whole life, his very existence, was ready for lift off. Prepared. Primed. Pumped. And polished. He was ready to go.

If only he could find the keys to his car.

I digress here to say I awoke early this morning with his Keys recital playing like a metaphor in my mind. (Or would that be like a simile?)

Why me? And why four a.m.?

Well it is Sunday morning, after all. And many will be tramping off to temples, synagogues, and diverse houses of worship.

Thinking about the Keys monologue, reminded me about the institutional organized Church. An institution I happily parted with about four years ago, after careful introspection and comparing it with the Body of Christ left us by Jesus when he ascended into heaven. A Spirit-filled body of believers that changed the world in one generation.

The institutional church, like the poet’s imaginary vehicle, has been tuning its engine, checking it tires, waxing and polishing its paint, and yes, at times even vacuuming its interior. For 2,000 years. One might expect to see it moving by now.

I suspect it simply cannot find its keys.

It’s the wrong paradigm. It’s not the model the Lord intended. Not the model of the first century church. A church without priests and temples.

So yes, the open mic night at the museum was not a complete bust. It had shining moments. Thanks in large part to Bill and a few others.

And it gave me a new metaphor for what’s wrong with the organized church.

And yes, Bill, to answer your sotto voce question, the performance poet did help me make up my mind. (That’s a private joke. But you can ask Bill if you’re interested.)

My apologies to Claire Koehler and any other poetry aficionados for my unwashed comments. I suspect I’ll not be asked to cover further open mic events.

Sad, that.

I was just beginning to enjoy my MAL moment on the stage.


Pasadena Author Fair

Four of our writers will be appearing at the second annual Author Fair sponsored by the Pasadena Public Library this coming Saturday.  Rubin Johnson, Kay Murdy, Raquel Reyes-Lopez and Mary Terzian will be among the fifty-plus authors who will be speaking and signing books at the Fair. Continue reading




A shadow’s length
of grief stops by;
I welcome it
with suspicious eye.

It lingers not
though has great sway
Its purpose–
needs crying away.

It’s not a friend,
yet bears no malice;
it opens wounds
but is not callous.

I know it arrives
to unburden my heart,
its treatment takes time,
is sometimes harsh.

It flushes out pain,
then leaves in a breath;
my life is cleared
to take the next step.




A Tribute to Marilyn Jensen

Marilyn JensenHere used to sit Marilyn Jensen
next to her coffee
Shhh! Her pile of papers
pushed her coffee over
sometimes she slapped the table
and her cup jumped
oh shuck!
but your dialogues sounded better

Her trademark “who’s your market”
drove your storyplot to target
her mere scribble or two
rid your sentence of woes
Her deft pen looped an awkward phrase
Like a seamstress played with ribbon

Here sits Marilyn Jensen
Always in session
She watches the club members
forces us to remember
That writers, riders of lofty standards
don’t try to dash off the yards
to skip, to fake, bypass
perfection. Be on guard!

Here stay Marilyn’s splatters
On page fifty of my manuscript
Her note: My cat leaped where it matters
Love this sentence. Watch your tenses
why “Memoir”
In your title?

The last of Marilyn I sought
tiny in cotton shorts.
too hot for an autumn day
California writhed in its third year of drought
And writers like Marilyn struggled
to fill the thirst of those parched and wrestled.

But Marilyn, like me, was getting older
And the world of water shortage, gun-filled
The world of emoticons in bytes–illed
blogged, posted. This world of Facebook, Twitter
wasn’t the one Marilyn loved
Yet, she tried
Lone dove against a storm.

“I don’t know what I’ve done
I fear I killed this one.
At first it was a virus
then Windows 8…the Beetlejuice
I’ve created a mess
a jumble tangle of cords
ugly as my spleen
And now they’re useless.”

So I checked

 behind her credenza
an old pencil
A paper clip
dust bunnies and spiderwebs
a mix of delight and surprise
to Marilyn

Pencil, paper clip, hairpin
she kept
the rest to the dustbin

I pawed the ball of wires, connecting
DSL, monitor, mouse, keyboard, computer
everything else but her.
They pronged the outlets and blip,
that devil of a machine took power

Word by word, line by line
The last chapters of her historical novel so fine
re-summoned, a marvel of
Eight painful years of sweat combined

her words from blood of love.
Marilyn’s narration of the nation’s VPs
fated to be presidents
of the United States
Words by words in her first-rated

built to perfection

Marilyn, normal citizen
cadet nurse , wife, mother, teacher, historian,
and most importantly, writer
sworn to be faithful
to her God and word.

Our Marilyn
wrung her hands
a bit confused
the instant her monitor lit up

How in the world did this thing
so effortlessly quickened

she said.

“Thank God! My work isn’t lost,”
breathless Marilyn sighed, relieved
not knowing, a final plot twist required
her gentle writer’s soul
be woven into her masterpiece
to leave
her body cold.

May peace be with dear Marilyn,
faithful always

Editor’s note: Marilyn Jensen, an integral member of the Writer’s Club of Whittier for over forty years, died October 19, 2014, after a brief illness.