Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Walk Light at Rives Avenue

The Walk Light at Rives Avenue
 seems to take forever to come on.
Cars come down Florence quick and constant,
flowing as an un-swimmable mass
of blurry colors and blinding chrome.

A man on a rusty bicycle stops
and sets his feet on the concrete walk;
plastic bags full of empty cans
sway back and forth on the handle bars.

On the far side a woman in running shoes
leans against the stop light pole,
presses the metal button once,
and pushes back in a long slow stretch.

We have come to a stop at anywhere,
like townspeople frozen on a page
of a yellowed hardbound picture book,
on a city street between world wars,

waiting for the drawbridge to set down,
sharing in casual nod and glance,
this momentary intersection
of unconnected lives,

or travelers bound together,
by a pause on an ancient river bank,
the ferry still at the opposite shore,
the river moving fast in deep mid stream.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Meditation On 1963

First pangs  of passion for a girl
first twinge of trouble in my world
first view of fabric always tearing
and scabbing back on ancient seams

John F Kennedy shot dead
as we sat silent in our classroom
and Pope John the Twenty Third
a light for searching Catholic youth
dead before the sparks of hope
could light a warming fire

While out in California
Pat Brown’s housing legislation
is opposed by most state senators
and up and coming Ronald Reagan

Say what you will about smoke-filled rooms
Jesse Unruh strong-armed them
beat them all into submission
and passed the radical legislation
banning housing discrimination

For every healing mend a rend
Ah             the greatest generation
and real estate associations
who pushed a state wide proposition
to kill the ban on discrimination

The voters passed it
                                                two to one
and three years later
                                                Brown was done
defeated by the hero

                                                Ronald Reagan


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cupcake and Lace

Carol Kearns' Cupcake spy stories were inspired by the Cupcake character in Reflections on Espionage, by John Hollander

Cupcake and Lace
     by Carol Kearns

            Cupcake checked her messages and noted Weber’s time of arrival.  Then she sat down to prepare her pictures for Instagram.  This week a picture of crepes meant a meeting after breakfast, 10 AM; a picture of a pizza said meet after lunch, 3 PM; and a picture of sushi said meet after dinner, 9 PM.  If she applied a red filter, it meant a quarter after the hour; if the filter was blue, it meant half-past; and if the filter was green, it meant forty-five minutes after the hour.
            The pictures of food were always accompanied by “sightseeing” shots:  at least three pictures of public landmarks or famous buildings, and somewhere in the middle of the series, a picture of the structure across the street from the actual meeting place.  This week she saw that the Agency had created 130 followers on Instagram on for her. 
            A call from the boutique came just after she posted her final picture. 
            “Cherie,” said a feminine voice.  “Your order has just arrived.  The Belgian lace is beautiful.  Would you like to come for it now?”
            What?  This was not in the plans.  Giselle was one of their most reliable contacts.  But Belgian lace was the code for come now.  It must be important.  Cupcake put her gun in her purse.
            Ten minutes later, when she entered the shop, she saw Giselle arranging a new display of intimate apparel.  A husky man with graying hair was near the window, casually browsing through silk kimonos
            Giselle looked up as Cupcake approached.  “Bonjour, Cherie,” she said, but her eyes revealed anxiety as she glanced at the male customer.  He now held a gun and was walking toward them.
            “Alright, you two, close up shop and head for the back.”  He motioned with his gun for Giselle to lock the door and put out the Closed sign.
            “Who are you?” demanded Cupcake.  “Is this a robbery?” 
            “Don’t make me laugh, Cupcake!  Yes, I know your name.  And don’t pretend that you don’t know me.”
            “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she insisted.
            “Yes you do; you call me Lucifer in your reports.”
            Cupcake’s face remained a mask; she would not give him the satisfaction of a confirmation.  
“Get moving I said.  We’ll have plenty of time to talk in the back.” But before Giselle could move, a customer came in, nicely dressed in a sport coat and slacks.
“Hello,” he boomed, his voice projecting too loudly as he closed the door just a little harder than necessary.  “My girlfriend told me that she loves your shop, and I want to get her something special for our first month’s anniversary.”  He was moving briskly around the displays, touching everything, smiling as he examined the delicate clothing. 
            The husky man slipped his gun back into his pocket. “Monsieur, Madam was just closing up.  We have a business meeting.”
            “Lavender is her favorite color,” the customer continued, oblivious to the tense body language of the three people already there.  “Of course, I think she looks great in red.”
            Suddenly he sneezed.  “Sorry,” he said, “I’m allergic to some perfumes.  Is someone wearing Tabu?” and this time he sneezed quite violently, falling against the man with the hidden gun.
            Seeing her enemy stumble, Cupcake was on him in a flash.  She kicked him hard on his backside before he could straighten up and sent him sprawling amid the brassieres.
            Giselle sprang to the phone to call the police, and the loud, clumsy stranger was now direct and efficient as he put a knee to the man’s back and applied his thumb to a pressure point on the neck.  The man they knew to be Lucifer stopped struggling and went limp.
            “Weber, what are you doing here?” demanded Cupcake of the man who had just come to her aid.  “Control said you weren’t arriving until tonight”
            “I’m supposed to be here now,” he replied, as he searched Lucifer’s pockets and found the gun.  “You sent a picture of French fries with a blue tint – after breakfast, 10:15.  Good thing I saw what was happening through the window.”  
            “That was last week’s code,” Cupcake said with a sigh.  “You do good work, Weber, but I think you need another day of training with this app.”


Carol Kearns' Cupcake short stories are inspired by the Cupcake character in Reflections on Espionage, by John Hollander

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Making a City

One summer August when I was about twelve, my brother and I embarked on a grand undertaking. We decided, in a dusty second floor room in the abandoned shed attached to our old farm house, to build a civilization. We had a large flat space. We had paper and glue. And we had, wonder of wonders, access to my father’s office mimeograph machine. On a grid, maybe four feet by four feet, we laid it all out: main street, side streets, houses, yards, shops.

I think of this, standing under the sun outside my office building, looking across the parking lot, across the boulevard, to the blue sky above the strip mall restaurants. A grid city, laid out and planned with restaurants here and a gas station there, patterns repeated over and over beneath the glare of a nine zillion watt light bulb.

There is Sweetie Thai, with white table cloths, tea lite candles, thin waitresses moving in the dimness of the dining room away from the glow of the windows. Carl’s Junior. One of a thousand in Orange County, and the California Fish Grill, where every Tuesdays fish tacos are half price. Every Tuesday one of the ladies asks around the office. She collects the orders and makes the call, and then we walk across the street, talking of home repair and children. The smell of some exotic oil on a hot pan floats from Sweetie Thai. Inside the California Fish Grill, the noise of clanking spatulas and the sizzle of batter are background for the chatter and laughter of a hundred people jostling around the island filled with pots of salsas and cilantro.

In that dusty room we placed the people, two types of men and two types of woman, a boy and a girl, several hundred copies run off on the mimeograph. We had cars, complex folds and strategic spots of glue placed after cutting along the blue lines duplicated on a pile of paper. There was a bank, with lots of tiny money, and a restaurant and a factory where the cars were made, a couple of folded houses and a restaurant, which we thought was really pretty close to everything that we needed to complete our little world.

It all lay silent as the next school year started and dust filtered in through the shed. And now, as I stand on the concrete side walk, press the metal button and wait for the walk light, I think about this rolled out city under the sun, and realize that in my long lost little world, I didn’t know about the sizzle of batter, the smell of fried shrimp floating across lanes of asphalt, and the lady who gets up from her desk about eleven every Tuesday to collect the fish taco order.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Desert Roads

The baking two lane blacktop stretches
to a point on the still horizon

where progress toward the distant mountains
is imperceptible at speed

In a trick of lazy geometry
on-coming trucks don’t seem to rush

they just grow slowly larger
then pass in a blast of turbulence

No curves from here to a far off rise
miles of scrub and ocotillo

hawks and silent emptiness
of a single cabin by a wash

and the crosses and dried flowers
that mark passing of miles and time

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Orange County Intersection

I’m standing on the corner of Valley View and Cerritos Boulevard waiting to cross at the light. I’m thinking about poetry, and the magic that I find in Robert Hass, and wondering what twists and turns of imagination and real events led to something like January. I’m thinking about how alone I felt in the park just a few blocks away, by myself at a picnic table, in the shade of a tree, and how even the school next door was silent with the children inside after recess, and how the small birds picking at the nearby hedge spend their whole life like this, under the sun, surrounded by green and far away noises.

And I’m wondering how a poet describes this intersection, almost a field of asphalt baking in the sun, the way the cars flow through and split off in smooth streams like the red blood cells flowing endless through an artery. The subtle lean of the oncoming cars, sweeping in an arc from the left turn lane that brings their heading right at me before the steady hand below the face maintains the angle of the wheel, and molecules of tire and roller bearing keep their anonymous separation from asphalt and steel spindle and the car completes its quarter circle passage three good steps in front of me. How alone the electron, the vibrating carbon atom caught in a tangled petroleum web forming the stage for this long dance.

black rubber
tire tread
asphalt rough
sun cooking
tire carcass
twists and rolls
contact patch
shape distorting
air pressure
wheel bearings
suspension struts
inside spring
relaxes as
steel body sways
away from the arc
of turn

and we control
all of this
with a certain
inches away
from curb and
waiting pedestrian
who thinks how
the four lane flow
splits streams of cars
into three forks
constant globs
some here
some there
like movies of
blood cells streaming
from an artery
into separate veins

meanwhile asphalt
sticky, black
Valley Boulevard
under hot sun
becoming soft
tires mainly
synthetic rubber
a polymer
from petro-
leum products
come to life
for one more dance

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Third Thursday Poetry

This Thursday: the fabulous Tamara Madison at the Rives Mansion. See you there!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Window Frames: A Mothers' Day Post

Old wooden window frames lined the walls
in the rambling two story farm house:
heavy sash windows allowed to raise
by solid lead weights, white woven chord,
stamped metal pulleys at the top of the sash.

Chords worn from years of sliding
over wheels that had long ago ceased to turn
would always snap when an open window
was the thing that seemed to matter the most.

The spring winds smelled of lilac,
washing out the stale smells and memories of winter,
and the best thing that we could do for mother

was to take apart the window frames,
free the pulleys and string new chord,
rub some wax in the sticky places,
and let the windows open again.

Copyright © Frank Kearns 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Off The Grid

I really like Carol's short story "Off The Grid." We are excited to say that it was recently published in the latest edition of The California Writers Club Literary Review.

Off the Grid

by Carol Kearns

Teddy nodded his thanks without missing a note as the young woman dropped some change into the open saxophone case. As he anticipated, foot traffic was heavier than usual in front of the Dollar Store this Friday, and people were feeling excited and generous about the beginning of the holiday season. It was the day after Thanksgiving, with many people already in the mood for Christmas.

Today Teddy’s playlist of recognizable pop/rock and occasional jazz tunes was salted with songs of the season. “Feliz Navidad” was a big favorite in this neighborhood, and most of the families recognized “Rudolf” and “Frosty the Snowman.” This mini-mall was not the most profitable location on Teddy’s circuit, but the high volume of steady customers gave it a measure of reliability. The Dollar Store was a modern-day Five-and-Dime, with only the name changed to reflect the inflation of the past sixty years. The store offered simple things that people would always need – household items, certain packaged food, hair care products, stationery, costume jewelry. People came to shop, buy lottery tickets at the liquor store, and dine on Chinese take-out. Teddy lived within walking distance himself, and he worked this strip at least several times a month. With clouds looming from an offshore storm, Teddy felt he had been prudent in postponing the long bus ride to Best Buy until tomorrow.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Third Thursday Poetry: Beth Ruscio Featured at Downey's Monthly Poetry Series

This month's featured reader is BETH RUSCIO: poet, actor and vaudevillian! THIRD THURSDAY POETRY this Thursday April 18th at the Rives Mansion. You will love it!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Boarder Fence

a dark line marches
across the sand of the Sonora desert
almost black
it stands there dull and silent
in this stretch of baking earth

earlier at the boarder
just south of Campo’s dusty streets
nothing was visible over the wall
except the bright sky high above
it felt like the end
of the measured world

now west of Yuma
where expanse of sand
glowing in the midday heat
echos ancient Lake Cahuilla
truck tracks weave across the wash
why would any one be here

certainly not to tend the desert scorpions
or watch the plumes
stream off the crests of graceful dunes
certainly not to tend this long dark line
a line in the sand
where nothing moves
where the map of America stops


And there continues to be creative attempts to get across the boarder. Sometimes they don't work that well.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Farmers Market

We are fortunate to have such a nice farmers market here in Downey. We often meet friends and neighbors, and over the years have come to know a number of the vendors.

This photo was taken from the parking garage, before the market was moved to Downey Avenue.

Here is a poem

The Farmers Market

A couple works quickly
stacking tomatoes
his trimming knife slashes
basil and thyme
she weighs and makes change
while answering yes
her children are well
and that’s perfect with fish

she is short
her fingers are
thick from the work
apron and jacket
cradle her chin
where the glow from her smile
takes over and floats
up past her delicate eyes

© Frank Kearns 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Weight

The Weight: Written by Robbie Robertson and originally recorded by "The Band," thie song has been listed by Rolling Stone as one fo the top 50 "greatest songs of all time." It has been covered by some notable artists including Aretha Franklin. Amazingly, I had never heard her version until a we saw a band cover it last week.


Then this morning I heard it again ...

The Weight

The mist pressed silence into the morning
the way the heavy quilt
had muffled the sound of the radio
drifting in from the bathroom

They had heard a band perform “The Weight”
just three nights before
and now the chorus

not The Band’s funereal march
but the soaring cries of Aretha
rolled across the room

take a load off Fanny
and three female voices spread their harmonies
take a load for free

they had argued         she had said
the lyrics made no sense
and he said it’s like a painting

the soaring voices like the rays
of sunshine just now finding
pathways through the morning fog

and as the commentator talked
and the hair dryer started behind the door
he felt her company all these years
holding him weightless and warm

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Location: Our Place In The World

Last year Carol and I met a young violinist whose family lives in China, but who has lived in Los Angeles by herself since she was a teenager while pursuing advanced music studies. She has traveled the world teaching and performing, and is the inspiration for this poem.


the subtle tones of the violin
maple from Croatia
and Spruce from the Black Forest
tingled her cheek in the same way

her cashmere scarf      in a fall breeze
blowing up from Puget Sound
rose to muffle startled breath
and played across her face

her home       they asked her that last night
and though she thought she said Shanghai
the New York sidewalks         LA sun
felt as real as her warm tea

her home         a metal folding chair
wedge foam cushion placed just so
back straight head back      left wrist held up
ancient wood against her chin

the slight curve of the tensioned bow
resting level with her face
marking out a graceful line
drawn anywhere in space

Monday, February 18, 2013

One Eleven Bus

Florence Avenue

The one eleven bus slices through
the layers of Los Angeles
and lays bare the sinews
and marbled muscles of her thighs

City Bus Center
Inglewood Crenshaw
Western and Vermont
Normandy acid
of anger and hate
etched into the intersection
Broadway and Avalon
Central Avenue

Central Avenue
The black South
come to work the heavy metal
of the booming Southland
And live to sounds of
Big Joe Turner
Lionel Hampton
Central Avenue Breakdown
drifting from the
now quiet Dunbar Hotel

Alameda Santa Fe
Pacific Boulevard

an artery swelling
with the post war
white blue collar
California Dream
then collapsing with
the shuttered factories and
boarded up store fronts

to fill again with
vibrant multi colored
horns and guitarrons
spices and sweet language of
the fruit of the Americas

On through Downey
and finally Norwalk
as the tides of people
move around the globe
and beneath the asphalt
the earth shifts

Take the Metro Green Line
for the return trip

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Circling Venice

I am excited to announce the publication of my first collection of poems, "Circling Venice."

Here is the marketing blurb ...

A stunning first book from Frank Kearns. A private life revealed in quick snapshots that mirror adolescent America’s mythic migration westward in the 70’s. His long time west coast home differs from the places where he began, changed by one simple act of will: “Cars were the way out…I started the car.”

Kearns writes with a laconic Yankee directness of his journey, and in his orbiting perspective he gives us stops in time and stops in places. “Always the woods,” he says of his New England childhood, “hilly, laced with decaying stone walls, glades of sunshine, pockets of cool cool dark.” Once in the Venice of “the people’s parks and food co-ops,” the unexpected courtship of a muse illuminates his poems.

If you are curious, previews are available on ... but contact me and I will make sure you get a copy!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Porch

We play on the porch
our island
washed clean
by gentle air
and splattered rain

Rails hold off
the endless space
The porch receives
our footsteps
our brief moment

The porch stands still
long empty days
slowly cooling nights
passing cars
furtive raccoons
in raised nail heads
and lifting flakes of paint

Friday, January 18, 2013

Catching Fire in Downey

There is so much going on now in the Downey arts scene that it is nearly impossible to make it to all the events! Who could have ever imagined such a problem?

Here is a link to the Downey Arts Coalition Website, which gives you a feel for what is going on:

I read this poem at the Third Thursday Poetry Series, hosted last night at the Stay Gallery on Downey Avenue. It discusses two topics, stellar evolution and the Downey arts scene, which you might think have little to do with each other.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Dell House


The large shade tree that darkened the front yard
offered cool solace to restless youths
who straggled down the sidewalks and alleyways
and opened the creaking gate
at the bulls eye center of the counterculture,
where restless Midwest runaways, pauper musicians,
bikers, authors, old Jewish pensioners
and wizened beat poets basked
in the summer sunlight, sandy beaches
and run down bungalows.

We were bleeding internally.
David could feel the blood filling his head
from the rat-a-tat of weapons
on the nightly evening news, his only relief
fast walks, head down,
through long painful nights,
then back to his job at the aerospace plant,

and Michael couldn’t stop his knee
from jumping as he sat, up and down,
the jungle always in his mind,
the night he and a single black pajama guy
scared the shit out of each other as they
locked eyes for an instant and slowly
backed their way out, 
and now his knee kept jumping and his long
blond hair flowed in heavy waves over his shoulders
and he lived with all these other folks even though
he really didn’t like hippies and
he talked of Canada all the time.

One roof       kitchen rules,
criticism meetings stolen from Mao
that didn't go over too well with Michael,
but he sat there and took shit
and dished it back to all those who left their
breakfast bowls in the sink, and all this resulted
in a schedule for cooking dinners and a
kitchen devoid of dirty dishes
and floors that got swept up now and then.

One roof where the passing parade
drifted in and out and we didn't
have to leave the house because the world
came to us with political perspective and
mystic meditation and sex and friendship
and love and alliances and plans for

People's parks and food co-ops
and lay-out work for the local paper,
where the world came to us
with distractions and temptations,
Brown Sugar blasting in the large back room,
bodies                shadows in the dim light
up and down to the driving beat of a Saturday night.

The tide ebbed and the stragglers slept
on a Sunday morning as we sipped our coffee
and spun our narratives,
every story full of motion,
every path leading here,
this timeless instant in the living room,
David, Michael and the rest of us

catching our breath

                    on the way to somewhere.