Poems from the 20th Anniversary Authors’ Anthology

New poem by Kim Shuck

2017 Poet Laureate of San Francisco

Drought Break

Weaving of water is layered

Sitting in the rain

Feet dragging in the runoff

I know there are trees coming down tonight

Drought tired

Clots of soil run free

Sailors still catch and spill


Still navigate by song





So far we are still witness


Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus and Other Poems
Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikus terrenales y otros poemas

by Francisco X. Alarcon

Federico García Lorca / Roque Dalton /
Gloria Anzaldúa

oh poetas del mundo
de ayer, mañana, siempre
sin fronteras
hermano del alma
hermano en lucha
hermana mestiza
pusieron en riesgo
sus vidas en versos – y ante
mentiras, la verdad

9 de diciembre de 2013
o poets of the world

from yesterday, tomorrow

forever borderless

soulmate brother

brother in struggle

Mestiza sister

you risked your lives

in poems – choosing

truth over lies

December 9,2013


New poems James Downs

Whispers in the grass

The sheer

abruptness of sweetness

on the tongue

the full

dawning of sunflowers

in the mind

the repetitive

mirror taken down

off the wall

the shouldered

certainty of sightings

in the throat

what is it we seek in this life of woe

the twinkled

brightness of benevolence

near the stars

the tried-

and-true of whispers

in the grass

the hunger danger of hope in the heart


The Nature of Mountains

John Peterson

dark season

we keep finding small places that let the

smell of herbs come through

rosemary before its put in the black skillet

with potatoes onions and black pepper

basil oregano and cilantro growing on the roof

top deck where the sound of pigeons and sunsets

fill the sky and early morning bells

from the methodist steeple

stand out against the snow covered peaks

of the cuyamacas

the source of rain in the spider plant

the deep smell of burning oak

eucalyptus both wet and shining and played out in smoke

this is the season the bear sleeps where you and i

slowly give in and lay front to back like spoons in

a velvet embrace


Landscape of a Woman and a Hummingbird

Joe Milosch

He twists his neck to catch the sun,

which turns his throat to the same shade

of red as the fluid in the gourd-shaped feeder.

Peeling grilled tomatoes, she lifts her head

to see him dip his beak, turn his head,

and burst into shadow.

As they slip through her fingers, tomato seeds

become prayer beads, which seem suspended

for a moment before falling into her salsa.

So Many Voices

Poetic Matrix Press’

So Many Voices Cover

20th Anniversary Authors’ Anthology

246 pages, Price $20.00, available from Small Press Distribution (SPD) www.spdbooks.org

With material from our 60 books and 45 authors (including new pieces from many) this is a true reflection of So Many Voices that we have had the privilege of publishing. This is an interesting and beautiful compliment to our publishing efforts. With editorial assistance from John Peterson, James Downs and Joe Milosch and Forward from James and John and cover art from Molly Weller.

Kim Shuck, Francisco X. Alarcón, James Downs, Shadab Zeest Hashmi, john (peterson), Diana Festa, Anne Whitehouse, Patricia Nelson, Brandon Cesmat, Joseph Miloach, Ashley Gene Pinkerton, Arthur W. Campbell, Mun Duk-su, Peter Gibson Friesen, Joseph Zaccardi, Hassan El-Tayyab, Joe O’Connell, Joan Michelson, Leroy Franklin Moore, Jr., Grace Marie Grafton, Yearn Hong Choi, Lyn Lifsin, Rayn Roberts, Chris Olander, Molly Weller, Charles Entrekin, Gail Rudd Entrekin, Sandra Lee Stillwell, Tomás Gayton, Joel Netsky, J. P. Linstroth, Ruth Rosenthal, Bonnie Joanna Gisel, Peter and Donna Thomas, Reverend James Fox, Alex Landon and Elaine Halleck, and many more.

James Downs 

Refining the moment

Reach out a quavering hand to touch rock 

bird bones may be Hollow… but they are heavy 

colors of Fall are proportional to colors of Spring 

there’s a giant in the Sky prepared to roar 

find yourself in company of No less than three 

Genealogy tells only part of a truthful tale 

a ditch only means higher Ground on other side 

lumbering black bear can run straight uphill 

make a face by scrunching up your Mouth 

thin valley gets Darker quicker than a plain 

Markets for homegrown gods shine out 

when you leave one place you Enter another 

ghosts of Today become memories of tomorrow 

bighorn sheep re-introduced to wild Sierra Mountains 

Wave upon wave caresses winding California coast 

You cannot escape Yourself even if you tried 

Refining the moment… reach out a quavering hand  

bird bones may be Hollow… but they are heavy 

James Downs 

James Downs

Here are two poems that have similar subjects enough to be connected.


Speak it into being

I didn’t believe but
…….I spoke it into being

and ever infinitesimal
…….I became what I am

and that is what I was meant
…….to be

all this journeying time



long enough
and something will undo your certainty
the spectacular places
life itself

James Downs

James Downs


In an online discussion about donating to the homeless, I waited to see if any other people who had been homeless in their life responded. I find it fascinating that we as a species make judgements without even asking what that person’s experience has been. I like the person who separates their giving from the person’s use of it.
So now I will say that due to circumstances out of my control, I ended up on the street for ten months of my life. I didn’t want nor did I try to get there. But my mentality did change once I did. Your mind ratchets down until your entire focus is surviving. Large thoughts of philosophy fly out the window. A roof or a cardboard box over your head and donated food become who you are. Any little donated amenity just helps you get through the day. I never asked for money of anyone, but it was fascinating in retrospect how many people would pass you when you are, say, sitting on a building dock and actually turn their heads so they would not have to look at you.
If you have any activity, it is just in your mind…or you may go canning (I did not). But you remain shallow…depth implies safety…and it is not safe out on those streets. In those 10 months I saw more drug deals and prostitution deals go down around me then the rest of my life combined.
If you were lucky to find a mission for a night’s sleep (I did part of the time), it was not necessarily safe. You slept “with one eye open.” And for logistical reasons, the rules were demeaning…kind of like you are a number, not an individual. And the sermon a day was meant as a good thing, but it really didn’t help.
There are so many more out there these days that did not ask to get there. Yes, there are those that cannot handle the regular society and hold on to staying there. But I bet you, most of them did not ask to get there. Consider also the mother and kids now on the street to avoid the danger of an abusive husband/father. So many different examples and reasons you can find out there.
I was luckier, way luckier, than most. My family had been looking for me the whole ten months. Once I got my head in a more lucid planning type mode, I had a sister I could call…who jumped in her car and came to get me. I stayed with her and her husband. But even then, it took months to decompress…you can immediately take a person out of the street if you are compassionate enough to do so, but it is much harder to take the street out of the person.
Here I am 15 years later, with a wife and a home and step kids and grandkids…I am one of the lucky ones. But I am sure that I am a much more compassionate person than I was before and have an understanding, just a little, of what my fellow human goes through. I will never wish what I went through on anyone. But I learned a lot from having done so.
~~James Downs

James Downs

137 bullets (a lament)
shots rang out…rang out…rang out

they have them cornered and shots
started ringing out…it was as if 13
fingers resting against 13 triggers
couldn’t hold back any more and so
shots rang out…rang out…rang out
no one even knew if they were alive
or dead inside

James Downs
(Cleveland car back-fires in front of
police department, a subsequent
100 officer chase…then 13 firing on
a cornered unarmed black couple)



by James Downs

JDToo many people are paying no attention. Too much is going by in front of     them, because they, like everyone else, have busy lives. …But what is not understood is that the plans, the legislation, that are hidden in lies and disguising words, affects every single one of us in a concrete way…daily.
It is thought that politicians lie, that they all lie, that nothing they say means anything to us. First of all, they do not all lie. There are many good folk trying to serve us amidst those who want to manipulate us for their own gain. And what they say affects us every day. It just makes it harder to tell – more work on our part to find out who the honest people are – who the people are who want to serve us fairly and then really get out the vote for them.
Government is not inherently wrong. Just as brain surgery or teaching or plumbing are not inherently wrong professions. What is wrong are the selfish, greedy and yes lying people we have let get in office. When you have a loved one that may have to go under the knife on their brain, when you have school age children that are daily affected by teachers, when you need plumbing redone in your house, each of you are diligent, careful, check into what those people do for you.
So why do we take what our representative says without question, when we do not do so for any other person that serves us? When they downgrade their opponent and tell lies about them, when they tell us very little about what they are truthfully doing, why do we let that stand?
The “Emperors of Power (representative, church leader, talk show host, media giant, corporate rich) have no clothes” because the truth is there to see…and so often we ignore it. It is time to stop that. It is time to demand accountability. It is time for us to take nothing at face value. We have a perfectly good internet with which to search for other sources, sources that can counterbalance what is not explained.
And really important… It is time for us to stop being misled by folks that want to play on that one hot button issue that makes us go blind with fear and keeps us from seeing all the other issues that are important. We might find that we have been voting against our own best interests all this time, against what is good for our families, for the economy and for the environment, et cetera.
The Emperors of Power have no clothes and it is time for us, like that one young brave boy, to stand up and say that is so. Time to demand the accountability of them that we demand of all the other people that serve us, each and every day.

Merge with the river
by James Downs

Available at Poetic Matrix Titles