Calendar of Coming Features

Dear Poetry Express friends; In the interests of flattening the curve of COVID19 transmission we are following the lead of local schools and other gatherings and temporality canceling our scheduled Monday poetry sessions for at least through the end of March, and perhaps longer. We will keep you informed.
     All the current information points to heightened risk for those over 60, and a transmission rate from infected person to another person happening while the infected person may still be asymptomatic. 
     The rate may be between 2 and 3.5 persons infected by each who already has acquired the disease.
     Slowing this rate through social distancing is the only way to avoid overwhelming our health care system with more sick people than we have the tools to effectively handle. 
     It appears that the US is ill prepared for an epidemic and the current administration has been slow to recognize and prepare effectively for this virus, with cuts to a number of health related programs and even reductions in food for the needy. Conservative outlets have followed the president's lead early in this crisis and poo-poo'd the severity. 
     Please observe all precautions and note that your hands may be frequently washed, but you have also touched car doors, window controls, steering wheel, heat controls, cell phone, wallet or purse, money, glasses and glasses cases, water faucet after washing hands -- same handle you touched before washing! And what about packages you bought in the marketplace -- who else touched them?
     Given the difficulty of assuring sterile hands and surfaces, it is best to reduce social exposure. 

     The hosts of Poetry Express want to see all of you again.

03/16/2020  Roopa Ramamoorthi hosted by Sharon CANCELED 

 Roopa is a biotech scientist and poet who grew up in India and calls Berkeley home. She was a finalist for the National Poetry Series in 2011 and her work has appeared in the anthologies, 'She is Such a Geek', 'Dismantle' and 'Red Skirt Blue Jeans' and on Perspectives on NPR and in  India Currents, Berkeley Daily Planet, Khabar, Ursa Minor, Spectrum and other venues. 

Family Tree
By Roopa Ramamoorthi

Few weeks ago I spent two days in Mendocino 

tucked away on California’s northern coast 

Heard the waves lashing the rocks, saw a red-breasted robin 

ready to take flight, a young seal on the rocks 

sunning itself, then setting out for a swim 

When I hiked in fern canyon  

I touched the trunk 

Of one sturdy redwood tree 

Climbing the narrow trails, inhaling the misty air 

I saw nobody else out there this Tuesday 

Only those ancient pteridophytes  

Layers upon layers of green 

Beckoning and bewitching from the other side of time 

I descended back to pygmy forest 

Nature’s bonsai of acorn and cypress 

Stunted trees adapted to the saline soil 

five hundred thousand years old 

The landscape here became more stark, less serene 

I stood transported to a different tree, a different time 

A photocopy in charcoal black, empty white and shades of gray 

From five full years ago. It could have been  

a Japanese artist’s ink brush drawing  

A single tree standing on a winter’s night, severe and still 

Or a botanist’s sketch of a new species 

with nodules narrowing four branches 

But no, it was my mother’s arteries 

Captured from her angiography 

In Jaslok hospital, Mumbai 

soon after her heart attack 

I took that image—consulted cardiologists  

In Palo Alto and San Francisco 

A month later she became ashes sprinkled in the Godavari River 

Traveling to where the Arabian sea kisses the star-studded sky 

Becoming engulfed in the universe’s eternal canopy 

A black and white sketch that still breathes in a cardboard box of mine 

Along with the torn black book of her recipes and her childhood photos 

One of her sitting in her chubby frock at one 

Another of her watering young saplings 

as a girl of eleven 

One more at twenty-four 

Holding her newborn baby 

standing next to a budding jasmine tree 

This poem was published in 

3/23/2020 Tom Odegard hosted by GaryCANCELED 

Tom Odegard, Tom/Ms. G lives in Friday Harbor WA… in the middle of the Island on the edge of a seasonal swamp. Since 89 he and his wife lived in such circumstance while visiting the Bay Area to read poetry and eat really great food.  On 1/23/2020 the love of his life, Connie, left her pain filled body and relieved him of his full time job. He will be visiting the Bay Area in March and will be reading some poetry and prose about their love and her death as well poems that have accrued along his poetic journey.  
He’s published many chap books, a couple of perfect bound books, and may bring a new one with him - so be sure and come. 
Mark States once likened Tom/Ms.G to e.e.Cummings a compliment we will not throw out or forget for a long time. 

we were married in our Oakland backyard
amid aluminum scaffolding, postage stamp grass
with the residents of our three plex attending
there were plenty of smiles and no grumbles

"cleanse" was not an appropriate term
but "wilderness" obtains: tools, sun, fig,
walnut trees, rose bushes, morning glories,
and a big greenhouse full of smokable herb

the tool bench was cleared enough for champagne
and our daughter arrived with dated glasses '83.
our gf, soon to be wife, made a surprised guest
our Universal Life Minister and we were married.

After the champagne we crammed into two cars
and headed downtown to a Dim Sum restaurant
on Webster and 8th where we filled a round table
and acted round-eye crazy while sampling everything.

Heading home our ex-wife found she'd locked her keys -
yes my dears, in her Toyota, but our new wife's Toyota keys
fit perfectly and the day was complete with
wonderment and laughter.

3/30/2020 Poetry Expressed Magazine Reading CANCELED -- all published in our annual on-line mag, are invited to read their work from the magazine.

April is National Poetry Month

4/6/2020 host Elaine

4/13/2020 Richard Loranger hosted by Jim CANCELED 

Richard Loranger is a multi-genre writer, performer, musician, visual artist, and all-around squeaky wheel, currently residing in Oakland, CA. He is the founder of Poetea, a monthly literary conversation group. His publications include the books Sudden Windows, Poems for Teeth, The Orange Book, ten chapbooks, and work in over 100 magazines and journals. He curates the reading series Babar in Exile, and the queer talk and reading series #we. You can find more about his work and scandals at

The Truth

A poem doesn’t tell you how the world works.
It asks you.

4/20/2020 Tony Aldarondo host Bruce CANCELED 

Tony Aldarondo is a Puerto Rican writer, actor and poet. He  humbly admits to falling in love with rhymes from the moment he read Dr. Seuss in the 1970's and heard rap music for the first time in the 1980's. From that moment on...,rhymes have been a apart of his DNA. He has performed in award winning films and major theatres throughout the bay area. He has also toured two seasons with the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, and has taught theatre in after school programs to youth in the inner cities for over a decade. You can catch Tony Aldarondo featuring at many poetry hot spots throughout northern California. Please feel free to enjoy his work at

4/27/2020  Hugh Behm-Steinberg hosted by Gary CANCELED 

Recipient of Wallace Stegner and NEA Creative Writing Fellowships, Hugh Behm-Steinberg is the author of two collections of poetry, Shy Green Fields (No Tell Books, 2007) and The Opposite of Work (JackLeg Press, 2012; 2nd edition by Doubleback Books, 2020. In 2015 his short story "Taylor Swift" won the Barthelme Prize for short fiction, and his story "Goodwill" was picked as one of the Wigleaf Top Fifty Very Short Fictions of 2018. He teaches writing and literature at California College of the Arts, where he is currently the Chief Steward of the Adjunct Faculty Union, SEIU 1021.


I was such a tough kid all the cattle would stop by our house to chew on me. They’d ring the doorbell, or they’d wait for me as I was walking home from school. Their hot breath, their sad eyes as my salt taste filled their mouths.

My mother, unlike all the other mothers, watched. I didn’t complain, but neither did my brothers or sisters, who I had beaten up mercilessly. “Serves you right,” each of them said, when they weren’t busy petting the cows. So each day the cattle chewed and chewed, but in their mouths I stayed whole.

It took such a long time to become gentle.

5/4/2020 host Elaine
5/11/2020 Rafael Gonzalez  hosted by Jim CANCELED 

Rafael Jesús González taught Creative Writing & Literature, Laney College, Oakland where he founded the Mexican & Latin American Studies Dept. and was Poet in residence at Oakland Museum of California and Oakland Public Library 1996. Thrice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, he was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English for his writing in 2003, in 2013 by Berkeley with a Lifetime Achievement award; in 2017 named Berkeley's first Poet Laureate.


Se trata de la vida 
y de algo muy relacionado 

(auque sea que me equivoque) 

— el amor.

(Estima, ternura; 
un respeto primordial,
aversión al dolor, 
aprecio al placer, a la alegría 
— la belleza.)

Se trata de la vida 
                                          y del amor. 

Es esta 
mi política.

You Ask

It is about life 
& something very akin to it 

(though I may be mistaken) 

— love.

(Caring, a tenderness; 
a primordial respect,
an aversion to pain, 
a regard for pleasure, joy 
— beauty.)

It is about life 
  & love. 

These are 
my politics.

© Rafael Jesús González 2015

riverbabble 27, summer 2015; author’s copyrights 

5/18/2020 Johanna Ely  host Elaine CANCELED 

Johanna Ely is an award-winning poet who has been published in several journals and anthologies. Her poetry has been described as “imagery driven poetry that brings sight to the blind, delivered with an emotionally honest voice that listeners and readers will recognize as their own”. She has a book titled, Postcards from a Dream, coming out in 2020, published by Blue Light Press. She hosts a monthly poetry series in Benicia called “Poetry Inside Out”, and believes that poetry always opens a window to the heart.  Johanna was the sixth poet laureate of Benicia, California.

The Night We Saw a Meteor

It was late August,
the air warm enough
for us to sit outside,
to watch the soft darkness 
cover the trees.
Still new with each other,
we felt a silence settle between us
and were amazed 
to see a burning ball of light
streak across the sky—
a falling star gone
before the wish.
We wondered if it had crashed
in a field west of us,
or disintegrated
before touching the ground.

We shared a moment of awe
that stays with me even now.

Seven years later
we are not who we were then.
Our cells have been replaced,
and we have decayed
and regenerated many times
in our own small cosmos.
Yet, our bodies 
still shimmer with meteor dust
billions of years old—
our bones made from exploding stars.

©Johanna Ely

5/25/2020 Melissa Pinol  hosted by Gary CANCELED 

Melissa Pinol had her first poem published at 15. To this point, she has had 200 paid publication credits. She is primarily a Genre poet (SciFi, fantasy, horror and the mythic and mystical). She concentrates on freelancing primarily to anthologies and small presses, but she has been published in a handful of " pro" magazines (Weird Tales, Cat Fancy, Eye Magazine, Dreams of Decadence, Whole Life Times, Blindskills, Witch Eye and Mushing).One of her poems about rats got her interviewed on the History Channels documentary "Rats, Bats, and Bugs". Other publication credits include Glyph, Fables, Fagan, Kinships, Somniloquy, Grail Media, Raven Electric, Shyflower's Garden, MOOREEFOC, Anthrolotations, and many more.  Melissa's anthology publications include Scorpion Dreams, She of 10,000 Names, Naked Verses, Green Egg Omelet, Pig Tales, Insects are People too, Witch Eye and others. She is also a folksinger who specializes in ancient ballads. She writes both free verse and rhymed verse. Melissa lives in Richmond, CA with her boyfriend Daniel and a very lively Italian Greyhound named Nadia.                                                   


Green leaves and green stone
Watcher in the deep deep woods 
You wind your tendrils round my heart 
And bind you to me blood to blood.  


She sleeps in the Black Hole where my heart used to beat
Did I invite her
Or did she gnaw her way in
Parting the battered flesh 
With claws of twisted caring
Let me take care of you
She said
Curling up for a long rest In the hollow warmed by my living blood
Before it grew cold
I had almost forgotten
She was there
Almost remembered 
Desire's pulse
Snuffed out
As carelessly as a candle
When it
To end 

Her bitter sleep.

6/1/2020 host Elaine
6/8/2020 hosted by Jim
6/15/2020  Penelope Thompson host Gary

6/22/2020 Terry Tierney hosted by Gary

The author of The Poet’s Garage, Terry Tierney hails from the Midwest, but has planted roots in the San Francisco Bay Area. After serving in the Seabees, he taught college composition and creative writing courses, and survived several Silicon Valley startups as a software engineer. Tierney’s work has appeared in over fifty publications. Lucky Ride (Unsolicited Press), an irreverent Vietnam-era road novel is set to release in 2022. His website is

 The Poet’s Garage--Summary

The Poet’s Garage explores personal relationships, the environment, and the effects of war with simple language and occasional humor. Driven by a sense of epiphany, the poems often begin with a provocative phrase or image, linking one to another until something new or unexpected arises. In “The Crossing,” for example, memories of slurping Dairy Queen in the family Chevy and watching hobos in boxcars leads to images of homelessness and the narrator’s own vulnerability. Sentient plants, spirit-infused landscapes, and omniscient birds populate the poems. As both threat and harbinger, the persistent bird in “Blue Jay” becomes an immortal vision of nature’s continuity. Similarly, water connects past and present in “Smelling the Rain,” transforming memory into a living dialogue with the poet’s younger self. Like memory, multiple readings of a poem reveal additional resonance and layered shades of perception. We might never fully comprehend an event in relation to ourselves and others, but these poems try to draw us closer.

My father dug a trench for his fear.
By the time he returned,
his blisters had healed and no Axis planes
had bombed Minnesota.
With his uncashed checks, he bought a mortgage,
a two‑story house, brick, no cellar,
an attic with no windows.

Upstairs, he built a shower
and a locker for dry goods:
beans, canned peaches, condensed milk, and flour.
A baking soda solution, bleaching solution,
and soap.

Sometimes I heard him climb
the stairs at night
to check his provisions.
Some nights he heard the sirens
and clutched my mother's arm.
Some nights he never stopped climbing,
up through the roof,
above the heavy clouds.

6/29/2020 Maverick Night, host TBA

7/6/2020 Double Feature host Elaine
7/13/2020 Theme Night hosted by Bruce
7/20/2020 Double Feature host Jim
7/27/2020 Theme Night hosted by Gary

8/3/2020 Jennifer Hsegawa & Mary Burger host Bruce

8/10/2020 Theme Night hosted by Elaine
8/17/2020 Double Feature host Gary
8/24/2020 Theme Night hosted by Jim

8/31/2020 Maverick Night, host TBA

9/7/2020 host Elaine
9/14/2020 hosted by Jim
9/21/202 David Erdrich host Bruce0
9/28/2020 hosted by Gary
10/5/2020 host Elaine
10/12/2020 hosted by Jim
10/19/2020 host Bruce
10/26/2020 hosted by Gary
11/2/2020 host Elaine
11/9/2020 hosted by Jim
11/16/2020 host Bruce
11/23/2020 hosted by Gary
11/30/2020 Maverick Night, host TBA
12/7/2020 host Elaine
12/14/2020 hosted by Jim
12/21/2020 host Bruce
12/28/2020 hosted by Gary

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