By Niki Esko

Read softly, slowly, to yourself or to another. Feel the movements of your mouth, feel the air on your lips. Know or explore each word:

"Everything begins with an inhale and exhale, and never ends, moment after moment, yourself inhaling, and exhaling, seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, moving, sleeping, waking, day after day and year after year, until it is now, this moment, the moment of your being, the last moment, which is saddest and most glorious."

The boy knows death well.

He says, I am of you, I come from the turns you have attacked me with, the smell of your passing movements leaves bruises on my breath, takes pieces of my breath, ‘inhale and newness, exhale and new death,’ I am a boy at your godlessness, a boy in my own.

He thinks, Inimicable hand that lets go, not even you will stay by my side after you take all the nutrients, the food of my days, all that is beautiful in me, not even you will watch the curl of my spine, not even you will listen to the inharmonic bond between rage and fragile will, between fond memories and regrets. Godlessness: there is no difference: pain on one side and pain on the other.

He says, Take me, take me, take me, because, already, you have taken my limbs and what is life if I cannot run, if I cannot embrace, if I cannot fight.

Pause. Hold your breath, he thinks. With death there cannot be life, cannot be love. But here it is. I feel it hold me close, its fingertips dig into my muscles. Moments once dead are no longer through the life of my memory. Deathless because of my memory. All is resurrected with life, this life that has love, this love that is worth all the pains of life, he thinks…

He says, I am of you but I do not return to you, not yet.

He is ‘another boy alive on earth, seeking the essential truth of the scene, seeking the static and precise beneath that which is in motion and which is imprecise.’

It is private, ‘the destruction of the universe in the brain and in the senses of one man.’

The boy knows that death, somehow, is not death at all.

Copper Avila


Rest in Our Thoughts

Quotations from Resurrection of a Life by William Saroyan

Daily Serving: Ain HD

By Niki Esko

I will say this again and again: I am not a critic. When it comes to art, sometimes I feel that those who can do and those who can't criticize. Professional critics find work everywhere and anywhere; but this is a creative space. I want to share my experiences with the art; my interests are far from deciding whose writing is right or wrong and why.
However, Ain HD's book [If] Life's Rotten, Write to the Core is right and let me tell you why ;)

I first met Ain on myspace when she was networking through her vegan lifestyle page directed towards the black Hip-Hop community. She is a writer from Detroit and graduated with a degree in English/Professional Writing in Michigan. We stayed in touch for over a year and then I found out she was publishing a book. A few months later I bought it and now I'd like to share it with yall.

The work has a young & wise quality reminiscent of a writing notebook (in the journal practice & diary sense). I say this because one poem can be a flash of an early memory discussing love while the next page contains heavier observations of American society. Looking at my own notebooks, I find that some days I write outwards and other days I absorb the outward. From storytelling to socio-political examination, the pieces are accessible & direct. Besides the varying subject material on the pages, Ain allows the reader to write directly in the book with 25 writing prompts thereby engaging him or her with the poetry. The invite manifests the notebook.

To give you a sneak peak, here are the first and last lines from the poem "Katrina" that demonstrate Ain's style well:

"You were devastating
A modern Medusa
With a dangerous eye
The Cyclops that cried into the gumbo pot...

...No liquor to burn the throats of voodoo children
As bloated bodies drifted along a regrettable stream"

Here is the author in her own words:

What was your goal for [If] Life's Rotten...? Did you write the set of poems as a manuscript with a purpose or did they fall together under a purpose?
I think the pieces work together as a collection because I maintain my integrity as a writer. I started this collection over five years ago and never had the intention of putting together a book. These were all poems that had been taking up space on my computer. I put them all in one document, deleted some, revised others, and in no particular order, "[If] Life's Rotten" came together.

Explain how you found poetry.
Hip-Hop was definitely my first influence. Even before I knew the names of notable poets and literary artists, I was studying the lyrics of Ice Cube, Queen Latifah, Public Enemy, and Tupac. I started off writing rhymes over Hip-Hop instrumentals. After I realized that I didn't have the gift of flow, I started transforming those thoughts into poetry.

Which musicians inspire your thoughts and poetry? Why?
I'm inspired by a ton of musical artists, Talib Kweli, Nas, Nina Simone, Andre 3000, Micah Dalton, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu are especially lyrical.

Which writers inspire[d] you?
Toure is amazing, he writes from the heart when it comes to journalism and defies the "rules." He also has a great novel called "Soul City." So I'm inspired by the way he crossed genres. I'm a poet and novelist, but I also write for SchemeMag. com. Toure is a great model for me when it comes to being versatile.
When it comes to poetry, I have to be honest in saying that I don't read much of it, Langston Hughes is by far my favorite poet, but I prefer spoken word artists, like Saul Williams, Last Poets, Black Ice, Jessica Care Moore and others.

What are you currently reading?
I'm reading "Never Drank the Kool-Aid" by Toure. It's a collection of his mag features and essays.

Can you explain a little about your process?
I can't say I have a sole process. I keep a notepad with me at all times. Sometimes a poem comes to me in pieces, other times they come all at once. I never push myself to finish a piece. I never stare blankly at a sheet of paper or drive myself crazy trying to drum up concepts for poems. I write when the words strike me, which is why my work is so sincere.

How much 'formal' training did you get before college?
Throughout grade school and high school, I was into everything you can think of. Karate, dance, art lessons, theater, volunteering and sports. I never took any writing lessons outside of my creative writing class in high school, and I never wrote with the intent of sharing. It wasn't until my 4th year of college, that I decided to pursue a career as a writer, changed my major, and here I am.

Do you think many creative writing classes limit or enhance original creativity?
I had a creative writing course in college that nearly put me to sleep. We were reading works of artists that I couldn't care less about and writing on topics that I had no interest in.

My creative writing course in high school was a little more flexible, and it introduced me to Pearl Cleage, for which I will always be thankful. It also gave me a platform to write without constraints and the opportunity to be critiqued openly.

In both cases, I appreciate the time spent. Both courses pushed me as a writer. I don't think anything can limit original creativity. Creativity is something no one can take from you. It can only be enhanced or rendered stagnant.

If possible, explain what writing is to you. Why is it so important?
Cliche time: Writing is my salvation. It really is. I've gone through a lot of career goals throughout the years, but writing has always remained a priority. It allows me gather my thoughts... because I'm honestly not that much of a talker, and hopefully, it allows me to affect change. We need that.

What advice do you wish to give to young or upcoming poets?
I'll leave folks with my favorite quote of the moment: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” - George Orwell

Creative expression is necessary because we're moving into harsher times. A revolution is in order, and it's important that people use the "tools" they've been blessed with to inspire change. Whether your tool is your voice, art, dance, or poetry, we need you now!

& there you have it.

My favorite poem is a short,"Saturday Car Conversation" on page 61. Check it out by previewing and buying her book here =)

Contact Ain or read her other works:
Ain HD Good Times in A Chowline
Ain HD Myspace

I'll finish this off with one of the book's writing prompts. Maybe yall could respond to Ain by completing it as a comment OR you could write it in your own notebook. I hope that yall get your daily serving of poetry with this book and enjoy.

Writing Prompt #13: Whether you believe in the hereafter, or dream of a far off Utopia, we all wish for a heaven on Earth. How would you describe your Nirvana?

"...common sense is fragile if you never dream"-
from "Fragility"

The Simple Pleasures: Brian Byrnes & Patrick Wolf

By Niki Esko

A few months back (~Poetry Month) I started going to a weekly open mic potluck at my friend Lynn Gentry's house near San Francisco State. Most of the artists who showed up were primarily musicians; although, my fellow poets were most definitely present. The very first night I met Brian Byrnes, a musician from Lansing, Michigan. He moved to SF for a change of scenery, a steady climate, cultural diversity, and a thriving music scene. We chatted upstairs for a bit more and got to know the others. When it came time for show & tell, everyone gathered in the garage to perform and jam. It was a beautiful thing to hear so many guitars, fingers on the keyboard, and voices droppin' harmony. Brian's voice and genuine personality stood out to me and I couldn't wait to see him perform in a public venue.

Luckily, last week Brian invited me to his first solo gig at Simple Pleasures Cafe on Balboa.

Simple Pleasures is a small, non-tourist cafe at 3434 Balboa, San Francisco. When I walked in I couldn't tell where Brian would be performing because of all the couches and people. After buying a root beer, I finally found him setting up by the piano towards the back of the narrow room. He told me he'd be sharing the set with his friend Patrick Wolf. I'd heard Pat at Lynn's place but never got around to speaking with him. I was excited about both artists and got my pen out so I could get to writin'.

I sat behind them so as not to disturb them with my stalker sketching and weird stares. No, I really sat behind them because thats where most of the tables with good lighting were. Simple Pleasures should consider rearranging their set up so coffee fiends and fans can get the most out of the music. Anywho, Brian got right to it and his voice filled the busy cafe.

Brian has been playing music since he was little. Last night he showed them skills on a harmonica, piano, and guitar. He told me he has been playing guitar for 9 years and that some of his influences include Phish, the Grateful Dead, and the Beatles. With those influences you'd think you could imagine what he sounds like but his voice doesn't seem to fit a single genre or match a sole band/artist. Among the songs he performed were some of his originals: Golden Shores, Wishing Well, Fields are Burning, Broken Cup, Southeast of Briage, The Clowns that Laugh. Fields are Burning created an energy about the room that I have not felt in a while. With lyrics like "...the neon lights will draw us in like the vultures in the sky...," it is no doubt that music and poetry hold hands at night. [if I got any part of those lyrics wrong, let me know Brian! Either way, your songs are true]. He had this to say about this song:

"Fields are Burning sends a general message of hope and optimism, and tries to convey the idea that 'the grass is greener on the other side,' or that I need to come to the realization that things aren't always as bad as they seem."

Just what I needed to hear.

After a few songs Patrick Wolf took over the mic. Pat has been playing since he was 12. He was inspired by watching the motions of his father and a guitar. Patrick is from Cedar Grove, New Jersey and now lives in Richmond. He drove across the country with his girlfriend, Mary, after graduating from college. He doesn't have a solid reason or explanation for the move but I say that is exactly when someone should move; so when a person asks for motives, one can say "I'm not sure, but I did it." The universe moves in refreshingly uncharted ways.

His folk style and "warm, rich, full" sounding guitar (as quoted by Brian's father who was in the audience), was a complementary sound to Brian's but one that stands completely on its own. He played some of his own originals: No One Wins, Mary When I'm Gone, Lazybones, and Hell. When I asked about his songs, he had this to say about Lazybones:

"Lazybones, which is on my myspace, came about from lying around for a few weeks, looking on Craigslist for several hours a day, and accruing a general feeling of worthlessness and anxiety, although I like to think it is about a more universal sense of frustration. That's the idea, right? Relating the personal to the universal? I like to distance myself from anything I write anyway."

That's the idea.

Patrick has a CD but I think you've got to ask him about how to get a hold of a copy. I say peep his music on his myspace and then add him... or bug him at his upcoming shows. (He's an awful sweet guy).

Contact and upcoming gigs for Brian Byrnes and Patrick Wolf:
Mark this date!
July 11th @ the Red Victorian Peace Cafe on Haight St.

Mark this date!
July 23rd @ Simple Pleasures on Balboa

Last but not least, a burst of inspiration @ Simple Pleasures:

strum, pluck
lyrical vines over
glossy wood:
these soft strings pulled as tight as
my embrace around Bay water,
like rainbows in oil,
tight as
purple about new blood.

the view beyond the window changes
with each slurred pause.
At first pale blue like my early morning regret,
now, black speckled with gold like my
uplifted breath, my busy pen,
and eased thoughts.

mouth full of song, air is,
put to good use tonight.


The Hills of My Home

By Niki Esko

Addicted to the surreal in the real.
Pale light finds the veins of air in the green of twilight. This is my favorite time to walk, and so I go.

Sheets of fine gold, corrupt only in the hands of man, grace enemies of the earth.
Below this perfect light lay matted dogs and tattered cardboard signs that read
"I'm not gonna lie to you. I wanna get high. Happy 4th of July." A man waves. Spits at my feet.
His shirt reads "No Fear"
Truth comes rolling, heavier than the fog.
A family barbecues on their front porch. All-American orange freckles assault my passing. A father turns a hot dog link while frowning at his wife. Her back is turned. Children sip brown soda from a Carls Jr. cup and kick dandelions to oblivion. Above, the clouds close in.

Mosquitoes begin to smell of blood. Tumbling hay falls apart against barbed wire. As the sky soars low, so do the turkey vultures and crows. Heat and oily haze dance together as waves above concrete. The hummingbird grows patient; the hum of its wings is but a concerned murmur now. A young black cow stands alone beyond the fence. It faces me. Suddenly, large blue fireworks shoot up from behind the hills. They whistle and whirl, crack, snap, disappear. And still the cow faces me.

A family climbs into their SUV, perhaps to go out for dinner. They are all round in their own right. One, the shape of an egg, helps a plum and pear into the backseat. The driver, a football of a woman, empties receipts and old coupons from her purse onto the corner. There, she has found her keys. Metallic circles shimmer on the ground as they pull away.