Archive for the Poems Category

One Minute Ghost Story

Posted in Ghost stories, Poems, The Literateria on 08/26/2014 by Janet Fitch
The Hand Of Fate by Claudia Kunin

The Hand Of Fate by Claudia Kunin

A while ago, I participated in an afternoon sponsored by X-TRA, the art magazine, at the Hammer Museum, where artists and writers were asked to pick an image, any kind of image, and speak about it for one minute.  I picked an image from my fabulous photographer friend Claudia Kunin’s portfolio ‘3D Ghost Stories” called “The Hand of Fate” (guess whose hand it was?)  Here’s the image, and this was my minute.


Richard Quincey was a promising young man.

He used to meet Beth Ambercrombie down by the river.

No one knew what went on by moonlight.


Soon after,

He left and wed the daughter of a Boston merchant,

a handsome marriage.

A promising start.


Yet, from then on, nothing went right.

Whatever he tried was doomed to failure.

Lawsuits ran against him.

Children sickened and died.

He bore his failures nobly.

What a shame, people said, about Richard Quincey.


While Beth Ambercrombie walks in her strange garden by moonlight

She never did marry.

By moonlight she peers into the basin

where she studies Richard Quincey,

And again draws the sign in the water.



Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

Posted in Poems on 11/06/2013 by Janet Fitch

The Word: Burn

The burn you burn when the covers are stripped, exposing you just as you are.

The burn you burn when people look everywhere but the burned girl screaming down the middle of the road, her hair on fire.

The burn you burn when the hand the touch the smile comes near.

The burn you burn when the book electrifies through your eyeballs, the painting melts right off the wall, the aria explodes in your chest like a chrysanthemum.

The burn you burn when the book is famous but stinks, the art’s a fraud, the singer’s just a box of cereal, to be sold and sold and sold.

The burn you burn when they tear down your  coffee house, the one where everyone went, with the great food and a bitchin’ patio, that had a no cell phone policy, all to build a few luxury condos.

The burn you burn when they don’t even build the condos, so there it sits, a vacant lot full of ailanthus and shame.

The burn you burn when flamenco guitars begin to play and weathered hands clap out the rhythm and a dignified old lady gets up to dance.

The burn you burn when they don’t let you merge.

The burn you burn when the review is bad.

The burn you burn when the teacher hates your kid.

The burn you burn when the ex writes a memoir.

The burn you burn when your mother doesn’t know you anymore.

The burn you burn when other people are touring the five clifftowns of Italy.

The burn you burn at a party when you stand by the food and nobody talks to you.

The burn you burn when the letter finally says Yes. You read it twice before it bursts into flame.

The burn you burn when the Muse whispers her secrets into your ear.

The burn you burn dancing at a cousin’s wedding, amazed you still remember how to Pony, Slide, Slauson.

The burn you burn for the skyline of Manhattan.

The burn you burn watching Leonard Cohen fall to his knees.

The burn you burn hearing Patti Smith sing Gloria.

The burn you burn for the rice terraces of Bali.

The burn you burn for the boy with the tanned face and laughter in his eyes.

The burn you burn leaving school in the middle of the day. You vow your whole life will be like that, that kind of freedom.

The burn you burn sitting in front of Victoria Station with all your bags and nobody’s there to greet you.

The burn you burn when your husband walks six feet in front of you all through what turns out to be your last vacation together.

The burn you burn when your daughter doesn’t like the sad horse stories you’ve saved up for thirty years to someday show a daughter.

The burns you burn

Since you were born.

For life.

For art.

For love.

For freedom.

For approval and awards and roses and applause.

For your own voice to be heard, no matter what.

For embraces for sex for beauty for transcendence.


Always burning.

There are religions about removing those fires.

They see it as freedom.

All that suffering, that rage, that ecstasy.

Wouldn’t we be better off without?

But human life is combustion.

Here is my prayer:

Let me burn until my fires all go out.

Let me burn until I can burn no more.

Part  of a semi-weekly series of short short stories–and poems!–based on a writing exercise, The Word.  “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

 Next week’s word is: SHOOT


Don’t Look for Me

Posted in Poems on 10/25/2013 by Janet Fitch

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me in Idaho.

Don’t look for me in Utah.

Don’t look for me at the candy store.

Don’t look for me at Ross for Less.

Don’t look for me in Texas.

Don’t look for me in Walmart.

Don’t look for me on a Sealy’s Posturepedic.

Don’t look for me in my Maidenform bra.

Don’t look for me in the tool corral at Home Depot.

Don’t look for me at Michael’s by the curling ribbon.

Don’t look for me at the sandbox, yelling at my kid.

Don’t look for me at Little League talking on my cellphone.

Don’t look for me in the RV camp, watching television in the woods.

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me in Pep Boys, buying shiny mudflaps.

Don’t look for me at Barney’s Sale, grabbing gabardine.

Don’t look for me in Vegas, wearing sequined jeans.

Don’t look for me at Scientology, taking tests for personality.

Don’t look for me at the Glendale mall eating scented pretzels.

Don’t look for me at Burning Man swilling designer H20.

Don’t look for me in Redondo Beach, bikini and beach cruiser.

Don’t look for me on Rodeo Drive wearing Gucci specs.

Don’t look for me at Jumbo’s Clown Room hitting on the strippers.

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me in Indianapolis.





In Jackson, or Jacksonville.

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me in Whole Foods, with French tipped nails, sniffing the Persian melons.

Don’t look for me in hot yoga class.

Don’t look for me at the Fosters Freeze

Don’t look for me at Orange Julius.

Don’t look for me in Steak and Shake

Don’t look for me in In-N-Out.

Don’t look for me at the Circle K.

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me sharing anonymity with burnt-down coffee in a chipped-rim mug.

Don’t look for me drinking bacon whiskey in a downtown trendy spot.

Don’t look for me having a high colonic, chiropractic, or sugar scrub.

Don’t look for me downing wheatgrass shots.

Don’t look for me burning a backyard porterhouse.

Don’t look for me shooting little songbirds.

Don’t look for me pawning Granny’s pearls.

Don’t look for me in auction rooms, coughing most discreetly.

Don’t look for me keeping my voice down.

Don’t look for me calling home.

Don’t look for me confessing sins.

Don’t look for me spilling my guts.

Don’t look for me telling tales out of school.

Don’t look for me wearing ribbons of incorporated causes.

Don’t look for me if you want some finger pointed somewhere

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me in front of Mikron Liquors with a pint of Jim Beam in a tied-off bag.

Don’t look for me yawning through my nose at a ladies’ luncheon at the Grove.

Don’t look for me having my car detailed on Van Nuys Boulevard.

Don’t look for me buying Saran Wrap, I remember who made napalm.

Don’t look for me scenting my laundry spring-fresh.

Don’t look for me stenciling holiday napkins.

Don’t look for me popping oxy and stumbling through my day.

Don’t look for me at the tanning bar, cultivating a look of health.

Don’t look for me in latex shorts and patent boots, fetish ain’t my thing.

Don’t look for me in dirty feet, carrying sky-high heels.

Don’t look for me at the rave, the fest, the after hours club.

Don’t look for me jogging round the reservoir.

Don’t look for me.

Don’t look for me there.

Look for me where waves fall down and gulls drop mussels on the rocks.

Look for me where pines grow fresh and resinous in morning sun.

Look for me where hazy light of autumn reveals pedestrians as haloed angels.

Look for me where old books whisper to one another all the secrets of the world.

Look for me dancing to Anita O’Day where no one can see.

Look for me showing a crazy old woman my handmade Russian toys.

Look for me entertaining a night nurse with comic stereoviews.

Look for me on the hidden stairs, scattered with leaves.

Look for me playing old-style pinball, plying hip English.

Look for me eavesdropping on your conversation at the bar.

Look for me writing a story about you.

Look for me with my father’s fountain pen.

Look for me at the airport, relaxing after check-in.

Look for me in the cabline, I’ve given up the bus.

Look for me in an old hotel, a walk straight uphill from town, I don’t care if there’s no wifi, TV or well-stocked minibar.

Look for me in Amsterdam, in a tiny pancake house.

Look for me in Frankfurt, eating gruene sosse.

Look for me in Paris, my scarf correctly tied, begging for help adding minutes to my French cell phone.

Look for me in St. Petersburg across the street from Brodsky’s flat, with six strangers, all weeping.

Look for me in New York, getting drunk at lunchtime under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Look for me in San Francisco, at a Beat café with a cappuccino and a box of paints.

Look for me in Ubud, my hands involuntarily imitating impossible long fingered moves.

Look at me down by the creek, I can’t get enough of that sound.

Look for me staring at the sky, admiring clouds in their latest fashions.

Look for me playing ‘spot the coyote’ in an ordinary landscape.

Look for me gazing at hawks and answering their cries.

Look for me gaping at butterflies, cabbage whites, buckeyes, and a yellow one no one can identify.

Look for me laughing at hummingbirds, greedy for their next glucose fix.

Look for me singing the coffee song.

Look for me watching the first stars come out, a symphony’s shy beginning.

Look for me in the deep basement stacks.

Look for me.

Look for me out walking when shadows lengthen and the air turns blue, with long uncombed hair

Look for me watching persimmons ripen.

Look for me not wanting to go home yet.

Look for me on the backroads.

At Creams N Dreams.

At Lou La Bontes.

In the bed of General Grant.

Look for me in a forest of streetlamps.

Look for me falling in love with you.

Look for me.

Look for me.

I’ll be there.

Les Plesko, 1954-2013: Late Night Youtube

Posted in Poems with tags , , , , , , , , on 09/23/2013 by Janet Fitch

Friend and colleague, the writer Les Plesko, killed himself on Monday morning, September 16, 2013. He was the author of three novels, including The Last Bongo Sunset, Slow Lie Detector, and most recently, Who I Was. His magnum opus–the brilliant No Stopping Train, set in the Hungary of his birth and circulated privately among his friends–has never been published.

As the many writers and students who knew and loved him began to share their memories of Les, one former student in the UCLA Extension Writers Program posted a clip of Joni Mitchell singing ‘For Free.’ That clarinet player on that streetcorner ‘playing real good for free…’, that was Les. A man less interested in self-aggrandizement, slickness and commerciality could hardly have been found.

A website has been built for him at —, where friends and collegues are posting their thoughts and remembrances.

That clip was from Les’s YouTube channel—his student told me that he’d loved YouTube… another thing I didn’t know about him.

I spent that night watching film after film, his music, his obsessions. Themes emerged.  The young lovers, the flooding daylight, a grainy rawness, a certain hand-made quality, poignancy, romanticism, mystery. Then a wacky humor, and gentle pessimism. At one point, the stream kept reverting to the ending of Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night, with its sweet, gently cynical conclusions about love.

If you ever want to look inside someone’s head, look no further than his YouTube channel.


On Watching Your YouTube Channel Late at Night

For Les


You won’t be there at my bedside.

When it’s my turn,

You won’t come by

Quiet, that smile on your face

In your old scuffed shoes, some goodwill coat

To sit on my bed,

Tell me about the great book you’d just read

Your latest muse in the form of a girl.

You would have been such perfect company.

But you won’t be there for the reunions

The birth of grandchildren

All our hair gone white

Reading glasses on a chain.

We carve ourselves in light, Les.

There I sat in the quiet house watching

Your video clips

Romantic, whimsical, heartbreaking,

Each in its own way.

Washed out scratchy films

The mystery of dust and overexposure

That Seventies gritty romance

A code without a key.

You, hidden in snips and slips

And cockeyed snapshots

You reveled in all that beached, bleached light.

You slipped away into

Badlands, sand, chance encounters,

Always youth and its perplexity.

Romance, poignant and wrongheaded.

Christ, Christ.

Young lovers

Top down

Hair streaming into desert light.

No one is ever old there.

Desperate perhaps, but ever young.

I wish I could wear

A black sheath dress for you.

Like a black and white French movie.

My hair worn up.

But I was never like that

And now–Christ, I’ve gone past

Even regretting it.

I watched your films through half the night

Like living through your dreams.

They are not long

The days of wine and roses.

As the empty pint sinks.

When did you add that one

To your repertoire?

Your YouTube keeps wanting to return

To Smiles of A Summer Night.

That gentle coming back to earth.

Not the brutal truth of a high-speed sidewalk

At the foot of a brick house in Venice Beach.

I wish I could gather you in my wings

Take you back up there.

I wish I could.

No one knew me

Looked right through me…

Was that true?

Was it?

We’re all so damned opaque

But especially you.

You were inscrutable

Positively feline.

And then comes the wackiness again.

Like you on your bicycle

A Charlie Chaplin silent.

A bicycle, an umbrella

Laurel and Hardy moving a piano.

Why’d you let it go that far?

Drunken Angel.

You’re on the other side,


There’s the man who dies

And the man who’s left

To carry on his memory.

That’s you

That’s me.


The Day the World Ended

Posted in Poems with tags , , on 12/22/2012 by Janet Fitch

The Day the World Ended

The day the world ended

Looked like any other day

But everything was changed,

My tangled hair

my rumpled bed,

I arose

And everything was new.

The little cat who prowled the yard

Sniffed every new-created flower

Under a fresh-imagined sky.

The soil, still wet

From old world rain,

Had transformed,

Every atom had reset its clock.


Of course the usual reactionaries

Had hoped for volcanoes and tidal waves.

Any apocalypse would do,

So long as it killed off the all the godless


Turned them to tiki torches

Roasted them on a spit

Or drowned them in a thousand feet

Of rushy sea.

Their final dream –pornography.


Yet it came nonetheless.

Invisible but complete.

I am changed

The cat is changed

Even the street is new.

Who might I be this time?

Lover, poet, dreamer.

Goodtime girl at the end of the bar.

Or finally, genius?


Grace rushes in

Like a thousand feet of water,

and beauty, doing cartwheels.

What should one do when the world ends?


Tribute to the Fallen Giantess

Posted in Moments of Clarity, Poems on 12/06/2011 by Janet Fitch

After the windstorm

the massive eucalypt

lies prone across the stairs

the familiar fleshy trunk

barber-poled in green pink beige


pocked in places

(successful battles

with borer beetles)

pale branches

two feet around



The tree man arrives.

He says: Six men.

A full chainsaw day  and  maybe two.

Even sideways, it’s twenty feet high.

Shakes his head

and gives me a good talking to.

Had I pruned it

reduced its shaggy bulk

subtracted boughs and limbs,

it might be alive today.

“Took that wind like a sail,”

he says.

But I’m learning lately

maybe you can’t control everything.

Trees fall

and there is change.

A death, much like our own.

And we too will leave

a hole in our own backyard world

sun and sky where once

a great tree plumed.

A hundred feet

of shimmering fragrant grayish-green

the twisting limbs

of a sensual giantess.

The eucalyptus lies on its side

across the hillside stairs

stunned at the change of posture.

It’s very slow to recognize

what’s happened.

Its leaves are still so green.

such is the life locked in its woody girth

too vast for sudden death.

But the tree man says

we can’t make a table,

or even a set of garden benches.

We’ll be lucky to get it down at all.

It must be reduced

to wood chips, to be fired out

onto a freeway embankment.

Carried out as firewood.

Like a sail, the man said


It died resisting the wind.

Huge and defiant.

I find myself taking the  lesson opposite

The tree man’s intention.

I say, good for you, tree.

You died whole and grand

Utterly extended into the silhouette

you were born to inhabit.

Yes, I think it’s better to live like that

Immense, ungainly even

Than to let caution trim us small

and live as half of what we could have been.

The first butterfly

Posted in Moments of Clarity, Poems, Writing Exercises on 02/28/2010 by Janet Fitch

9 a.m. Feb. 28, a sunday  morning

The storm is all cleared up//the birds sing their feathered heads off//for the first time I’m aware//that it’s the males singing

and for the first time I’m aware//of male gnats flitting in the sunlight//in a giant rave//hoping to appeal//to their  ladies//before they’re eaten

guys go-for-broke//up and down the food chain//the world filled with desire//and its form is song//and dance

its spring


saw my first butterfly of the year//still creased and wobbly//new leaves on the persimmon tree//decorate  the dead twigs of winter//in palest, most tender green

and the sky is stained-glass indigo//like mornings at summer camp//I’m 9 or 10//can’t understand why people spend//their lives indoors when there’s this

powdered sugar dusts the mountain crests//Baldy proud in ermine