December 26, 2009
I learned my first cuss word when I was five
and got to walk to the end of the block
for the first time.
It was inscribed on the pole of a stop sign.
The pole was square, not round,
and thin, not thick.
Smeared on the side, right under the red stop part,
in black paint were the four letters
to creep into my subconscious,
grow into a whole vocabulary of defiance
that grew a little bit
each time I passed that word
on the corner of Blossom and Vanderbilt Lane.
Stoned after work again,
alone in the world again.
Freedom is a double-edged sword
that I wield in figure eights,
waiting to parry, riposte, or counter
whenever life attacks.
After all these years
weak grips get stronger
and I blink back the pain and stand
on two sticks—my legs.
I don’t care if I am the beanpole,
the bitchface, or the slacker anymore,
because I am alive
and I make my getaway
in the middle of the afternoon
in my little fast black car.
The Morning Shore
the morning after,
the bacardi bottle lies inside
the green cement goes far enough
down the throat to block speech.
I sit on stone steps watching sea gulls
swirl in arches in the sky.
I know I am a moody person
but so is the ocean,
burping forth malicious.
the waves all make simple sounds,
or the nexus of three pronged energy
that comes from anywhere and everywhere.
I sing of battle songs and poemcries
and low throaty bellows:
in the carnivorous daytime,
the moon eats itself.
I sing of kelp and brine
and tumultuous sand,
the goddess who nobody cares to claim.
The beautiful tiki man
with an engine block tattooed
on his chest
and a fish scaled shiny
I don’t give a fuck,
oversized sunglasses and no face
a kiss on the cheek
an appreciation of body
respect for body
body mind and soul
body kisses the dreamlessness
tastes the shoulder’s salt
will it kiss me?
the lone deserted bird
the beach needs love too.
smoke signals of hope out of a
This is the land of
the proud Indian braves
that lurk inside the dark recesses
of his heart
that you can see in the sensitive eyes
the restless spirit
like millions of curly dreads
refusing to be brushed down—
the inner whimsy of lung
desiring to be free.
on a motorcycle on the roadside of life.
The mercy bending at the knees
the glimmer of hope desiring to be free.
This coral has waited a thousand years for your hands
to pick it up the seashell waits a decade there
before the sea rejects it and you pick it up.
cool and calm
making love to your hand
as if that was what it was always meant for.
I don’t know where I will be this time next year.
I leap into the future—unknown
blind naked into the frying pan.
I will always be a dreamer,
though it won’t make any money.
I’ve got an idea and a feather
to float me down from the sky;
eager peacocks rustle in the trees.
I’ve made my last promise,
spent my last cent.
I have no health insurance.
I twirl around and around,
arms outstretched, eyes closed,
in the fog.
I dip paintbrushes in a can filled with turpentine
and paint over the glass frame
that holds me in.
My brush makes a beautiful streaking sound
as I dab on green, then browns.
When will the plate of this season be moved aside?
I’ve been dreaming for years.
I choke on the chalky penicillin of sanity,
the rays of sunlight, the birds that keep me
up in the morning;
the tiny bits of rain
that drum on my window,
the first bit of coffee in my cup.
I eat the language of the impossible.
A fucking dreamer, just the same.
Alexandra Kostoulas grew up in Los Angeles where she started writing as the youngest member of the LA Poets and Writer’s Collective in 1997. She now holds an MFA in English & Creative Writing from Mills College in Oakland. She received her B.A. in Literature from the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. She writes non-fiction, poetry, short stories, and is working on a novel about the immigrant experience and stolen artifacts. Her poetry has been published in magazines and journals in Los Angeles (ONTHEBUS), Santa Barbara, the UK and Greece. Two of her poems were selected out of thousands of submissions as “poems of the month” by poetsagainstthewar.org. While at UCSB, she won the Keith E. Vinyard Memorial award for her short story, “The Albanian.” The Society of Professional Journalists of Northern California gave her an award for journalistic excellence for her reporting on Eminent Domain in Oakland, which aired on KALW 91.7fm. She was accepted into the NPR next generation project and aired a radio piece on San Francisco’s Greektown. She has read her work at the Santa Barbara Book and Author Festival, the Los Angeles Festival of Books, UC Berkeley’s Morrison Library, Beyond Baroque Bookstore in Venice, CA, and at Mills College. She was the editor-in-chief of the Mills College graduate literary anthology, CRUX. She has worked with editors for 580 Split, produced by Mills College and was an editorial intern for City Lights Publishers in San Francisco. In 2007, she was awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the Foundation for California Community Colleges for setting up a collaboration between high school and college faculty focused on helping high school students from underserved communities succeed in college. She teaches English, Creative Writing and ESL at Berkeley City College. She is teaching a workshop at 826 Valencia in San Francisco this fall on Jack Grapes’ Method Writing. She lives in San Francisco.