Sunset over East Hollywood, Los Angeles

Victor Avila: Hope Amid Stones both Tall and Gray

Infinity does not know the grave
though the digger’s hand still turns the soil.
These monuments that some think grand
only mutely invoke the names
of the long forgotten dead.

There is no permanence
as these stones hope to proclaim.
Whether we are buried over here or over there
only bones below in a box remain.

The earth gladly welcomes them.

Perhaps infinity is just a word
Like truth and God and love.
Are they just pretty syllables
for atheists and blasphemers
to ponder in their despair?

Faith is irrational. It’s the logic of angels.

No, I will never understand
the mystery of the silent mountains.
not far beyond these gray and somber stones.
All the secrets of the universe
I’ll leave for others to discover.
The unknown will remain for me unknown.
I am glad of this.

I walk among the intaglio of crosses
and joyfully accept my mortality.
It’s because of this that I do not fear
the eventuality of days.

For every story, even ours, has a conclusion.

The essence of everything
we hold briefly in our hands.
In reality though, there is nothing in between them.
I find this notion both magnificent and grand.

Dust in time will cover even this.

Nothing in life is learned
until beauty becomes our mirror.
Only then will we catch a glimpse
of all that we call immortal.
We do well when we chase the ethereal.

For it is in the chasing of it, that we find most joy.

V.A.

Victor Avila is a winner of the Chicano Literary Prize. His poetry collection, “The Mystic Thrones of Night,” was published through Vagabond Books in 2019. Victor’s poetry has been widely published and anthologized. Recent work can be found in such collections as EXTREME: An Anthology for Social and Economic Justice, and The Border Crossed Us. Victor has taught in California schools for over thirty years.

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Second Chance (A Ninth Grade Student’s Poem on Redemption)

Everyone needs a second chance,

A second chance to say goodbye.

To say sorry, to understand.

To hold a grudge or to start a new chapter,

A chance to remain hurt, or a chance to forgive and forget.

But why remain hurt if there’s a second chance to stop hurting.

I need a second chance, you need a second chance,

We need a second chance.

MT

MT is a Black 9th grade student at Dorsey High School in the West Adams area of Los Angeles. His favorite hobbies include playing basketball when he’s outside, and playing Fortnite when he’s stuck at home. This poem is dedicated to his father.

The Path of Togetherness (An Eighth Grade Student’s Poem on Growth)

As I wait patiently and try
Desperately to gain enlightenment I recognize a path that
Represents something unique.

Independently I strive to connect with this path,
But there are battles inside me casting a blinding fog
Trying to distract me. 

The fog tries to cast away my connection to the path,
But when I look closer, it calls out to me.

The path communicates a message of bonding,
Of teamwork and togetherness

It communicates gracefully, pushing me forward.

I recognize the path as one creating new opportunities for my future.

The path begins to become a part of me,
My trust starts to build upon this path I chose.

I have new paths to make, where I can manifest ideas
To develop my own independence
And to help others grow and manifest theirs.

SS

This poem is dedicated to the Los Cuentos community.

A Strand of Humanity (An Eighth Grade Student’s Poem on this Covid19 Season)

I sit here alone between four dark walls
Longing for a connection I can’t help but recall

This deadly virus has taken more than spirit and soul.
It’s also broken a ritual between me and my friends.

I wish I could say “hi” to them,
Or shake their hands, or tap them on the shoulder.

Now we sit isolated in virtual reality,
Only a strand of humanity.

School and work are gone, off limits
But these places aren’t just somewhere to be,

They also bring light in to a dark room.

Calamity over the virus now makes for empty shelves,
People panicking ignorantly,
Angering themselves, shoving each other.

I hope to see some deliverance soon,
A respite from this gloom to light up my room.

JC

This poem is dedicated to the city of Los Angeles and all who read this poem.

On Black History Month (For the Students of Los Angeles) 2020

There would not be any United States of America if it wasn’t for Black people.

From the moment the first ships docked to shore in Hampton, Virginia,

Up to the final seconds of that fateful morning above the hills in Los Angeles,

Black stories have constituted American history since before it was a Union, and continue to do so today.

In Los Angeles, where would we be without our Black icons?

8:24, Nipsey Hussle, Tupac Amaru Shakur, Angela Yvonne Davis, and more.

Their voices shaped this city and continue to do so, and it’s a privilege to recognize them as we Open this Mic, on this second to last day of Black History month 2020.

But we also recognize:

Black mothers,

Black fathers,

Black brothers,

Black sisters,

Black grandmothers

Black grandfathers,

Communities in Historic South Central,

In Compton and Watts.

From Long Beach,

To Inglewood, and more.

We recognize:

Black custodians,

Black bus drivers,

Black shopkeepers,

Black cooks,

Black healers,

Black teachers,

Black artists,

Black authors,

And especially

Black poets.

In the words of

Langston Hughes

Who would also come

To greet the sunshine of Los Angeles

‘I too,

Sing America.’

We too

Will sing!

Now,

Let’s get this

Open Mic going.

J.T.

Beverly M. Collins: The Mist

It’s 8:30 pm. I become aware of the cold

Temperature of the station bench through

My clothing. The train’s headlight appears

On the track, a distant sun blinking so far off

There is no warmth from its rays.

The feeling draws me back to our afternoon

Meeting announcement that a re-organization

Is about to disorganize my life and reveal

Accumulated dust in its corners

It’s funny how one sentence can tighten temples,

Add pepper and vinegar to a fresh cup of coffee

And suck all the air from the room at the same time.

These moments come out of the mist,

Bringing a chilly foul odor with a perfume label.

An appointment with insomnia placed before

Me with the dash of a stiff smile

Back at my desk, my attention creeps over

To the upside. I recalled insomnia visiting me with

Increased frequency over the past two years.

Let me see: demands, aching hands and insomnia

Versus insomnia and a new start. The cup before

Me was suddenly half full. It is not too sweet, but it

Has some cream.

B.M.C.

(First published in Poetry Letter and Literary Review, CSPS)

Beverly M. Collins is the author of the books, Quiet Observations: Diary Thought, Whimsy and Rhyme and Mud in Magic. Her works have also appeared in California Quarterly, Poetry Speaks! A year of Great Poems and Poets, The Hidden and the Divine Female Voices in Ireland, The Journal of Modern Poetry, Spectrum, The Altadena Poetry Review, Lummox, The Galway Review (Ireland), Verse of Silence (New Delhi), Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine (London), Scarlet Leaf Review (Canada), The Wild Word magazine (Berlin), Indigomania (Australia) and more.

Thelma T. Reyna: Old Habits

How easy it is, how easy,
for the brain to trick us
into wiping pain away,
into thinking you’re here at my door,
or in the kitchen by my side, sipping
at the mug, sighing at the early hour,
calling my name, your
mouth at my ear.
How easy, how easy.

The brain contorts memory
to shadows of itself, clipping
connections to calendars
and seasons, children growing
into future mists we veil over when
we’re tricked. I hear footsteps,
jingling keys, the gentle click
of a door unlocked, water lapping
at your washbowl, gentle, curling,
steaming stream gurgling, and
you humming as you shave your neck.

How easy it is
to hear these precious sounds again,
these tiny tunes of love,
tricking death and me with
double shots of cruelty: warmth
at the reliving; then stabs
of recollection,
of seeing you lowered,
sinking,
roses sliding
to the soil.

T.R.

“Former Poet Laureate Thelma T. Reyna weaves her nationally recognized skills as poet and as storyteller to craft a stirring, heartfelt memoir in poems that captures the essence of her husband’s brave, love-filled life—and the despair she navigated and surmounted when her spouse of 50 years died suddenly in minor surgery.”

A Poem Born in L.A.

Like a true son

Of Los

It keeps rising

Like a true heir

Of Los

It keeps lifting

Ocean grains,
Earth rains,
Desert range

Stars changed


When they renamed
Los,

Los Cuentos.

Es tiempo.
Lo Siento
Los Angeles

It’s

Cuentos’

Time.

J.T.

The Rite of Passage in L.A.

Sometimes poverty and addiction is all you see,

Is this the world I left behind to you,

Or is this what was left behind to me?

What I know is I hurt with you when you weep,

Broken promises that left you, scars we both keep.

Keep ya head up, they told me

Now it’s your turn.

Is that destiny?

You see you yourself are not a broken promise, though,

Homie.

But you have to make your way through brokenness,

To know

What’s truly free.

You’ll be free.

J.T.

Schoool (For the students of Los Angeles)

A little remix of 21 Savage’s billboard-topping ‘a lot’ by yours truly for the students of Los Angeles:

“How much homework you got? (straight up) 
How much homework you got? (straight up) 
How much homework you got? (straight up) 
How much homework you got? 

How many homeworks you got (a lot) 
How many quizzes you got? (a lot) 
How many teachers done doubted you? (a lot) 
Kicked you out the class? (a lot) 
How many lessons you lost? (a lot) 
How many field trips it cost? (a lot) 
How many laughs did you caught? (a lot) 
How many admins you shock? (a lot) 
How many times did you try? (a lot) 
How many times was it pride? (a lot) 
How many times you cold feet? (a lot) 
How many times did you sigh? (a lot) 
How many times your hope grieve? (a lot) 
How many times did it cry? (a lot) 
How many chances rap done gave you? (a lot) 
Thuggin’ round words like poets (a lot) 

Every day that I exist, I’ma side with the kids 
I’d rather be paid their thoughts than collect like Trix 
Told my students take my cred if my speech starts to cringe 
But I’m J.T. forev ain’t no way I’ma fidge(t)”

We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground 
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we make L.A. go ’round.

Huge potential outcomes if you state a couple facts 
Your dream so bold you could put it in your cap 
Fam vs the world, me and moms, it was us 
Then school sent me to da station and they really cuffed me up 

My father broke wives so he failed to be my teach 
My brothers popped ice and it fell em to the streets 
I been through the court but it turned me to J.T. 
Now the other side is sunny, I get paid these thoughts on sheets 

How many homeworks you got (a lot) 
How many quizzes you got? (a lot) 
How many teachers done doubted you? (a lot) 
Kicked you out the class? (a lot) 
How many lessons you lost? (a lot) 
How many field trips it cost? (a lot) 
How many laughs did you caught? (a lot) 
How many admins you shock? (a lot) 
How many times did you try? (a lot) 
How many times was it pride? (a lot) 
How many times you cold feet? (a lot) 
How many times did you sigh? (a lot) 
How many times your hope grieve? (a lot) 
How many times did it cry? (a lot) 
How many chances rap done gave you? (a lot) 
Thuggin’ round words like poets (a lot) 

We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground 
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we make L.A. go ’round. (x2)

How many sent to the deans’? 
For throwin ‘ they shots like vaccines 
I can see behind the phones and filters 
Egos ain’t big as they seem

Intersects like a string
Everybody got they thing 
Some students make dean’s list, other students make lean
I’m gon’ reflect on the scene
I’m not gon’ choke, I’ma free ‘em 

I don’t wan hear your concerns 
This ain’t no parent-square but I’ma care 
When they dragging kids down for expressin’ they heritage 
U know kids can learn from rap battlin’ and culture 

I guess you were hoping the rules would just tame they true selves
But these bars flowin ‘ college of self

OK, I got it, we’ll show up on everyone’s algorithm 
You know what bro Malcolm would preach 

Bettin ‘ a thousan

It’s got to the point that these schools ain’t even always the safest to be 
Fuck it cause that’s where this Los Cuentos fashion just hit me
It led me to save kids a spot, on a new remix to drop 
Shout out to “a lot, ” I polish the hook and I jot 

Pray for our schools cause they robbed like Iraq 
I picture the slaves on the fields pickin ‘ cot 
Respecc how they made it past all em cops 
Risking no less than they death if they caught 

I pray for the students who think they should cut 
Just want you to know your lives matter, my kiddos 
If I never met you, still know that you special 
And that the world needs you, don’t doubt it, for reala 

All the real teachers, stay solid, amigos 
I’m only tellin ‘ it just how I felt it 

I saw this parent look lost and abandoned  
When told that her kid goin ‘nowhere by standin’ out,’ I got amends 

It’s said that ur grades all about ur success, jot this dissent 
Flow on a mission reflectin’ how goals at our schools got be bigger 
Before we relent, reala

How many homeworks you got (a lot) 
How many quizzes you got? (a lot) 
How many teachers done doubted you? (a lot) 
Kicked you out the class? (a lot) 
How many lessons you lost? (a lot) 
How many field trips it cost? (a lot) 
How many laughs did you caught? (a lot) 
How many admins you shock? (a lot) 
How many times did you try? (a lot) 
How many times was it pride? (a lot) 
How many times you cold feet? (a lot) 
How many times did you sigh? (a lot) 
How many times your hope grieve? (a lot) 
How many times did it cry? (a lot) 
How many chances rap done gave you? (a lot) 
Thuggin’ round words like poets (a lot)

We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground 
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we give these schools they ground
We give these schools they ground, we make L.A. go ’round.

J.T.