The Poetry of Turning Point: An Anthology of Work

Image by Ariel Fintushel

 

From June to July of 2017, residents of Santa Monica’s Turning Point Shelter took part in Films & Poetry, a workshop facilitated by Women’s Voices Now. Throughout these classes, residents watched films from WVN’s archives, read poetry, then wrote original works. Following are a selection of poems from these workshops which the authors have allowed me to share with you.— Ariel Fintushel, Workshop Instructor

 

2 Poems by Amber Williamson

Here are two poems by the talented Amber about an infamous street on Skid Row called San Julian. She wrote these in response to Martin Espada’s poem, “En La Calle San Sebastian.”

 

Image by artist Michael J. Walker

 

On San Julian

Part I.

for Kavion

Good men sell their souls
on San Julian
Mothers turn into ho’s
on San Julian
211’s & Colt 45’s litter the streets
on San Julian
Gangsters meet
on San Julian
Baby learned to walk
on San Julian
Kavion lost his life
on San Julian

Part II.

Under the light
I sat
Glittering like a million diamonds
under the pressure
of a world on your shoulders
reaching up to the heavens
shooting like bamboo
out of the earth
once a forest green
now a steely gray
is this natural?
The smell of fresh tar
never tickled
these nostrils, when I
wandered the land,
The wheels before me
slicing through the jungle
like a wild machete,
The calls not much
different than what you
hear in a forest
of rain, the smells of
wild life permeate your
brain, there I sat on
a street, with many different
names

 

Poem by Sunshine

Sunshine wrote, “Revolutionary Letter #1” in response to Diane di Prima’s, Revolutionary Letters. Sunshine’s poem addresses the problem of inadequate housing for all and also the need for more protection for those living without homes.

 

 

Revolutionary Letter #1

The Right 2 Rest
to rest our heads,
our weary, beaten bodies
stiff from the cold in winter
burned like leather from too much sun
in the summer.

We have the Right 2 Rest
We have no home . . . .
Where can we go?
Sleep at the Mayor’s house,
or the Governor’s mansion?
Will they roll out the red carpet 4 us?
No! I think not!
They just want to sweep us
under the rug . . . .
Keep us hidden, out of sight
in our filth, in our BLIGHT.
America’s dirty little secret
like a scruffy matted furred – stray
Benji – dog, left to our plight.
The dog catcher is nice and toasty in
his heated truck in the winter, fat from
his government salaried meal in his belly…
While I, Benji, sit here mouth watering with
hunger, watching the dog catcher eat
a big, juicy, porter-house steak
through the window of a steakhouse diner.
I can smell that marinated, grilled
perfectly smell that only comes from
a steak house . . . . .
My mind wanders back to happier days,
happily sharing our T-bone steaks & potatoes
with my dog family.
I see the dog catcher get up from the
table, finished with his meal. He flashes
his badge as he pays for his meal.
He walks toward the door.
I run.

 

Poems by Paula Schlanger

Paula always sat in the front row of our workshop, and everyone referred to her as the real poet in the room. She has a beautiful way of reading her work – a sincere and gravelly voice. Her poems are playful and surprising but also philosophically oriented. In these excerpts, she meditates on freedom, female beauty, and aging.

 

 

Image via Pinterest.com

 

Freedom

Freedom is no handcuffs
around your wrists, or freedom is no
wedding ring around your
ring finger. Freedom is a
matter of choice of what
you would choose for yourself –
keep what’s right
not wrong will make the difference
between bondage or not.
Freedom is freedom of what
aids the heart mind and soul
of the human being.
Freedom is god given rain
to fill our lakes without
the need for prayer.
Freedom is the right to travel
one’s own path, the right to
pursue one’s own happiness
without the pressure of karma.
I Want to be 110 Lbs

I want to be 110 lbs –
that tummy tuck will work out
at a 110 lbs, and I can walk
with a sweet little wiggle
in tight jeans and a tight
t-shirt cut for a sexy
woman of the earth who
knows what she’s looking for.
I want to be 110 lbs,
so my buttocks is showgirl,
my thighs are showgirl, my
breasts are showgirl. I’m a
showgirl at 110 lbs –
I want to be 110 lbs.
I could slip into those
jeans and twirl around
then dance in the mirror
with a big happy smile
on my face – even my
makeup and jewelry will look
better on me.
I want to be 110 lbs.

Gazing Upon Self

Today like every other day the
eyes meet in the mirror –
gazing upon self- eyes are bright,
looking healthy enough.
Ok lets see, a little brown
over the lid, a soft, sweet smudge
will do – and yes, a hint of purple
blends real swell with my black outfit and
magical my eyes. 10 years later-
Today like every other day the
eyes meet in the mirror gazing
upon self. Eyes aren’t as bright
or looking as healthy –
Oh lets see, a little black over the lid, a soft
sweet smudge – No! A hard light
works better – and yes, a hint of
purple blends real well with my
black outfit and magical me eyes.
Years Later: Today, like every other day, the eyes
meet in the mirror gazing upon self.
Eyes are dark underneath. They’re looking soft,
or is this sadness? What war can do
to the eyes of a child.

 

Poem by Lori Leon

Here is short bilingual poem in the style of Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands, La Frontera. Using another language adds to the rhythmic complexity of a poem and can also be a political statement. For example, here Lori’s use of Spanish is a critique of the hegemony of English.

 

Image via Goodreads.com

 

Viviendo Sin Fronteras

Living in the borderlands means
having to struggle with all the
different cultures LA brings.
To live como si fueras prisionera
sin rumbo.
Having to work like a slave just because
you couldn’t fly straight.
Meanwhile all the motive para luchar
is still your kids.
No te dejes vencer por el diablo
que viv dentro de ti
Living in the borderlands means
you have the choice to say no and move on.
Having a spaniard & american mix in me
makes me that much stronger
like the bilingual tongue.
Taste the victory once all this is done.
Sigue charlando con las mejores
de personas para que dirijan
a lo bueno y sano que tiene
la vida con fronteras.

 

Poem by Ashley Studabaker

In this piece, Ashley takes inspiration from Allen Ginsberg’s, “A Supermarket in California,” in which he encounters Garcia Lorca and Walt Whitman in the grocery store. I love her use of detail at the end, especially “Marcone lipstick” !

 

 

Painting by August Macke, “At the Garden Table” via FineartAmerica.com

 

The Statue (Woman!) Speaks

I was at the water garden/
winery garden and a mysterious
tall statuous figure spoke aloud
which was a soft whisper of
an older (woman!)

I could not quite! grasp
what… this statuous (woman!)
was trying to say aloud, but
I do remember her last
statement;

Never lose what you
believe, and all regrets are
closed and sealed case!!!

Description: Red hair, bifocal glasses,
heels, Marcone lipstick, and straw
hat, diamond toe ring, flower scarf,
silver handbag!

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