May 15 2017

The Life Fact Shines

Eleni, don’t drive so fast


In my house I have a girl, a funny
little blonde, & a window, take
stock, a rose bush that keeps her
(the soul) from flying off
two legs thus far hold me pinned to the ground
and still ten fingers clacking around
the cups and plates of the house
In that house, I have a dictionary
of fabulous, ominous words     others
with words in French, in Greek
The words never match up   like two left
hands facing each other   hand la main    the outlines are messy
hold up life & life & try to trace them: the moving
shadows and their figurines bleed
which is to say I see     I am not in love with
my objects but I am in love with
their colors   I am in love with their
curves but not in love with their
tenacity   I hate & love their entropy, bury
the picture in the background, the little bird
in the back
the cracked blue cup in the dirt
the mouse the cats dug up
the gutted corpse of the raccoon   the new
old moon   the gate & the broken door
glass shards in the garden

Eleni Sikelianos is the author of the just released, Make Yourself Happy (Coffee House Press 2017)You Animal Machine, The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead (Coffee House Press, 2014/2013), Body Clock (Coffee House Press, 2008), The Book of Jon (City Lights Publishers, 2004), The California Poem (Coffee House Press, 2004), The Monster Lives of Boys & Girls (Green Integer, 2003), Earliest Worlds (Coffee House Press, 2001), The Book of Tendons (Post-Apollo Press, 1997), and To Speak While Dreaming (Selva Editions, 1993). She has won numerous awards for her writing, has taught at Naropa and the University of Denver. This fall she will begin her tenure as part of the the teaching faculty of Brown University. She rocks.


May 14 2017

Are the children opening mouths like hungry saxophones
Clamoring for bread from my bread music?

This exhale of ours bellows in and out
And does not look like a wind instrument

Must be a fool’s hat collecting coins
Never earned by my frail mouth, not like Coltrane

We never slept in the same bed
Coltrane and I: in the same bed I’d fumble.

Yet you wind inside of me and I become your instrument
Now the breasts on my lips

Soft like the rolls I’d bake
When I finally clamored myself to you

Earning that key no door will unlock
I wake to find you seamed against me, Coltrane.

Sexe avec Coltrane

Est-ce que les enfants ouvrent la bouche comme des saxophones affamés
Réclamant du pain de ma musique à pain?

Cette expiration de nous braille aller retour
Et ne ressemble pas à un instrument à vent

Doit être une sébile qui collectionne les pièces
Jamais gagnées par ma bouche fragile, pas comme Coltrane.

Nous n’avons jamais dormi dans le même lit
Coltrane et moi: dans le même lit je me serais échappée.

Pourtant, vous vous retrouvez à l’intérieur de moi et je deviens votre instrument
Maintenant, les seins sur mes lèvres

Doux comme les rouleaux je cuirais
Quand je me suis finalement réclamé de vous

Gagner cette clé qu’aucune porte ne déverrouillera pas
Je me réveille pour vous trouver sertis contre moi, Coltrane.

Originally published in the bilingual edition of Pussy

This is actually the poem referred to in the November 2014 issue of Vanity Fair in their article about Shakespeare and Company. It is the only poem I read in French.


Vanity Fair: November 2014 Issue


Reading “Sex with Coltrane” at Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France 2014


Cover painting by Jean-Noel Chazelle


Apr 2 2017

When Word Came of My Mother’s Death

I had just finished an order of fried fish.
I had picked clean the spinal column, lifting it entire and whole from the meat and skin.
I had sucked the meat from the cavities of the head,
had crunched and eaten the crispy tail and fins,
leaving nothing edible;
just the way my mother would go at boiled lobster,
picking and sucking meat from every cavity, from every crevice, from every hidden chamber,
even the spiny, spindly, reed-thin legs,
leaving behind nothing, nothing but bare shell.

Poem forthcoming in the collection, White Fire, published by Ping-Pong Free Press, May 2017.

pc: Wendy Moorty


Professor Emeritus at Monterey Peninsula College where he taught composition, literature, public speaking and humanities for 32 years, Elliot Ruchowitz-Roberts is co-editor of the college text Bridges; co-editor/co-translator of two works from the Telugu, Sudha (Nectar) by Chalam and The Selected Verses of Vemana, both of which have been accepted into UNESCO’s Collection of Representative works: Indian Series; and co-author of Bowing to Receive the Mountain: Essays by Lin Jensen and Poetry by Elliot Roberts.   His poetry has appeared in various journals and anthologies.

Ruchowitz-Roberts serves as Vice President of the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation in Carmel, California. He also coordinates the Foundation’s annual Prize for Poetry and its annual reading series, and serves as a tour docent.   He coordinated the National Endowment for the Arts “The Big Read: The Poetry of Robinson Jeffers,” during which he read and performed Jeffers’s poetry at venues throughout Monterey County, including local libraries, high schools and colleges. In 2009 he read Jeffers’ poetry at two bi-lingual readings in Prague, the Czech Republic.

Poet-in-the-Schools for the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts, Ruchowitz-Roberts presents poetry writing workshops in high schools throughout Monterey County and coordinates the annual Monterey County High School Poetry Awards.

photo credit for featured image: Stewart Ferebee

Mar 29 2017

July 4th, 1936- March 28, 2017

The Omen (must be) from the Great Blue Heron in my Backyard

My mother says it must be an omen, but of what, she doesn’t know.
Terminal cancer, she’s become a shaman of what’s between the sea and the landing.

We’re binge-watching Breaking Bad. “All doctors want us to radiate.”
“Fade away and radiate,” a Blondie song from the 80s pipes through my head.

She’s home now, not a metaphor, but a three hours drive from here
into a polluted wasteland of petroleum, pesticides and tumbleweeds.

A place where a great blue heron would never live, only migrate through.
My house is on a creek that trickles–sometimes torrents–to the ocean’s maw.

Now it’s meandering. The bathymetry has changed since last year:
two trees fell in my yard, on Easter a spruce crashed the trellis, shaved the cherry.

When the cottonwood smashed the tea roses, they were un-thwarted.
Lots of light now, more birds. The house finches returned: a nest in the barbeque:

the Steller’s jays returned; a nest in the bottle brush, not their usual stupid choice
of the patio umbrella, though they did leave a few twigs there for their gods.

And the great blue heron, a first time visitor.
A portent. “An omen,” she says.

The heron, who suffers no fool, flies past my line of vision, to the sea.
Great sweeps of wing close enough to tease a strand of hair from my face.

Over my shoulder a shudder of air as all the mourning doves tear out
of the sycamore, a sound like the gods’ shrill laughter, a chilling sound.

“An omen,” she says. There is a nest I built inside myself on a rocky perch. To love is to borrow a future sorrow made of sticks and hair and spit.

Feb 2 2017

Poet Republik Ltd. is happy to publish J. Hope Stein’s new collection of poetry, Occasionally, I Remove Your Brain through your Nose. No spoiler alert, but there’s something going on in this collection that is a kind of petroglyph for the times we are living through. These poems are original, experiential and vital. Read on….

Occasionally, I remove your brain through your nose

Sure, I’ve thought about fucking you in my desk chair, silently not to disturb the neatness of your yellow summer shorts. Silently, not to disturb our colleagues in surrounding cubicles. You putting small paperclips in my hair, your hands suggesting the rocking of my skull. Me straddling your lap, your bare ass in my desk chair, shapes suctioning into each other— We would continue to make the sounds of good business. A conference call with Coca-Cola, an email to Citibank, a spreadsheet of year-over-year gross profits. Me elevated in your lap, my face clearing just over the cubicle partition, just visible enough across the office, my expression dismembered like a poet who’s fallen out of favor with her king.

J. Hope Stein is a secret poet living in Brooklyn. To read another poem from her collection, Ted & Sylvia, go here Lenny Letter

Here blog can be found here: J Hope Stein and here: Poetry Crush

Feb 2 2017

I spent the summer of 2016 traveling in southeast Asia, mostly in Penang, Malaysia and Bali, Indonesia. While there the Soberanes Fire broke out in Big Sur, California, subsequently 132,000 acres of some of the prettiest land I’ve ever seen. Many of my friends and loved ones were in danger, some lost their homes. I was keeping track each day while also spending my time in temples: Taoist and Buddhist temples, or meditating at the ocean’s edge. This poem came out of these meditations. It was published on the program for the Jesse Goodman presents/Henry Miller Library benefit concert featuring Sharon Van Etten, Al Jardine, Michael Nesbith and many other musicians who donated their time. We ended up raising over 40K for the victims of the fire. Here’s my poem:

Ash for Breakfast

We reconnect at the moon gate, like clouds colliding,
and use measuring sticks to plumb the death of solitude.

With no one watching,
we solder meaningful doubt.

Hello, it’s me hauling my load of dust toward Bethlehem
under a shelter of corrugated sky.

A fire cannot extinguish us, but when we sit on the ash heap,
we may need reminding.

How to break through? The fire burns everything
except clouds.

The smoke fogs our glasses, while condor nests go up
in summer flames. How do we save them?

Ash floats over the charcoal house we painted turquoise.
At the charred edge, a bobcat runs with a squirrel.

The progress of stars is humbling.
We bow to the spectral ash
we all of us
are in this universe.

Maria Garcia Teutsch
HMML Chair/Board President

Poster by Steven Erdman

author’s note: It is not lost on me that the fantastic German poet and essayist Durs Grünbein has a collection entitled: Ashes for Breakfast. I love this collection (highly recommend you read it) and want to give this devil his due for in part inspiring the title of my poem. I woke up each morning wondering what damage the fire had caused, so it was literally like having ashes for breakfast.


Jan 14 2017

In my backyard, I wrote a letter to god.
Dug a hole with my mother’s
silver serving spoon

bent with the effort,
knees in dirt,
sunburnt neck in a crinkled cotton dress.

Four years old, I couldn’t spell
but knew my hieroglyphs
would be deciphered.

Words folded into white paper.
I thought, “When people are buried,
they shoot right up to god’s face.”

So I planted my letter,
shaped a mound on top
and placed a yellow marigold as marker.

I asked for a painted horse.
My father’s stone agenda
did not include horses for girls.

I didn’t get that horse,
though a fire maple
did grow from that spot.

The lingua franca of the wind
scratches a riot of leaves
across a blackboard sky.


Photo Credit: Stewart Ferebee

Jan 14 2017

How many ways of knowing can you think of? Sure, there’s the kind of knowing physically, emotionally, or psychologically, and then there’s a bird’s kind of knowing, or a turtle’s, or a girl’s. Here Joanna Penn Cooper invites you to explore a kind of knowing shared with scrawny trees as witness. And everyone knows what Shakespeare says about trees, they give many their ear, but to no one their voice.


How to cultivate wound-deep knowing
with only these scrawny trees around.
Even on the first really warm day
strangers at the park remain closed-
faced, squared off.  The wrong kind
of wounding.  One girl, though,
blond, Hasidic, alone in middle childhood
surreptitiously follows you around
the playground.  Testing out
knowing.  Going the wrong way down
the slide, twisting into a circle to get
her shoe back on.  Soul pate, is what
you think. Whole-souled human,
kenning what she can.

Joanna Penn Cooper is the author of The Itinerant Girl’s Guide to Self-Hypnosis (Brooklyn Arts Press) and What Is a Domicile (Noctuary Press).  Her creative and critical work has appeared in South Dakota ReviewZocálo Public SquareOpen Letters MonthlyMELUSPoetry International, Ping Pong, and other journals.  She is an editor at Trio House Press. 

Dec 2 2016

Brynne Rebele-Henry is a poet who maps the body’s horizon with a surveyor’s prism stick, and plums the emotional lanternfish of the deep like Jacques Cousteau. Who is the mighty Read More >

Nov 10 2016

revolution cover

Here’s a groovy interview with me conducted by Climate Activist, Dan Linehan for Monterey Poetry Review