“A Bus Ride on Labrea” by Levy Lee Simon

–  Keeping it Real series #16

So, today I was waiting for the bus at LaBrea and Washington. Yes, I ride the bus in LA, sometimes. It’s the New Yorker in me. Anyway, as I approached the bus stop I saw four Black women, who I can only describe as being from the hood, and I’m trying to be political correct.  (I know my people when I see them because I’m from the same place, so to speak.) Three of them were way over weight wearing uncombed wigs and weaves, tight fitting jeans on one, and tight stretch pants on the other two. All three had bellies hanging out and over their stomachs with  stretch marks everywhere, front and back. The fourth one was a very attractive tall brown with wild braids and a killer body in a sundress that I could see through. Between them they had six kids with them all under the age of five. They were talking and cursing very loud about something that seemed very important to them.  

One of the heavies spotted my bone earring and screamed, “ I like that earring, handsome!” I smiled and said thank you. When the bus came two of the kids jumped in front of me without saying excuse me, or anything. The bus was packed but I managed to get a seat. Of course they found seats next to me, across from me and in front of me. I was surrounded. They talked at the top of their lungs to each other as if the other person was two blocks away with language that was laced with cursing, insults and threats. “Naw, Ima bust that MotherF ass …. , etc.” In a so-called lower toned conversation between two, I heard one tell the other about someone who’d been shot and killed, someone they both knew.  Everyone on the bus kept a straight face as they pretty much took us hostage with their loud abusive verbal assault on the ears. And people are constantly complaining about my language verbal and written.  

At one point the slim one, stood on her seat and grabbed the three year old sitting behind her.  If the bus would have made a sudden stop, it would not have been pretty.  She literally stood on her seat, reached behind her and picked the kid up. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. When she sat down she passed a black plastic bag across the aisle to the one sitting next to me. The woman opened the bag which contained an open pint of liqour.  She drank then passed the bottle, each taking healthy swigs. I almost forgot to mention that each of them had a black plastic bags filled with candy, potato chips, and sweet juice drinks, that they ate and shared with the little ones. 

At another point the slim one and I locked eyes. It was as if she was seeing me for the first time on the ride and was wondering why I was looking at her. At first, I could tell she was trying to intimidate me with those deep penetrating eyes but I just stared back.  I didn’t want to appear threatening or demeaning at all. In fact, I looked at her with extreme compassion. She would not look away and I would not look away. She stared back now as if she was trying to understand what was on my mind. Or maybe deep down inside she knew what was on my mind. I don’t know who broke the stare but suddenly we were at Wilshire Blvd. I figured they would get off there to head downtown LA and back to the hood. I knew they were not going to Hollywood, or the Valley. As they loudly got off the bus, I felt for all of them but mostly for those kids, who astonishingly were quite well behaved. They leaped off at Wilshire screaming as they did, and off they went. Someone on the bus yelled, “take care of those babies.” A dreadlocked  brother standing by the door looked at me and said, “Man we are in trouble.” I nodded my head, not in agreement but in acknowledgement.

The image of those women and those kids  will stick with me for a long, long time. I cannot understand how in 2012, why I was able to witness what I saw. Right there, right there was the devastating legacy of no education, no jobs, no family training, no consideration for others,  and no God. Do I really know all of this? No, but I know what I saw and  I didn’t see any indication of the aforementioned at all.  My heart felt flush.  I fear for the future of those kids, and I fear for the lives of those women. My heart goes out to them because I know they are in pain and have been through more than I can ever imagine. And, there is probably a long, long line of neglect, abuse, alcoholism, addiction and who knows what else.

I wish they had someone to talk to them who could reach them. But, I’m also sure they have had tons of social workers, and caseworkers and systematic correspondents who have tried. I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not.  I’m babbling because I’m baffled.

 I wish someone could hold them in their arms and tell them life doesn’t have to be lived this way. I wish for someone who could tell them it’s going to be all right. But, off they went into the LA sunset, with their lives, unwise to these eyes. God bless. God bless. God bless, because only God can hold them and protect them, mothers and children. Mothers and children. May God protect and bless, the mothers and children.

Levy Lee Simon

Photo by L.K. Thayer


On reflection, I cannot help but to recognize how blessed I am, and those of us who had people in our corner, parents, relatives, people in our lives that showed us the way. I was actually on my way home from a day of meetings about my making movies sitting at outdoor cafes and such. And, complaining about this and that … Sometimes, God just humbles me greatly. Levy Lee

Stephen John Kalinich

A daughter killed
upon a sidewalk
struck down by a cab
A baby mother left with someone else
dies when i am at school
an abortion in Spanish Harlem
Twins  laying in a toilet
that never had one breath
that never came into existence
This self
that we chase
that is us
that we never catch
this fleeting flicker
held together
by such fragile
and invisble threads
that tare
and pull at us
that lift us
like a marionette”
© 2012

Stephen John Kalinich

What else is there
but to be humble
and know
there is only one creator
we are all the possibility
of expression that love allows
a poem is gods gift
through you
to communicate.
If it formed your body
and heart
and mind out of cosmic dust
and elements
surely it is that
which inspires the poem
and the one in touch with that
is in touch with the pulse of life.
© 2012

“Hallucinations” by Angela Cohan

A grenade.  The beginning of World War III.  Dream a little dream.

Buzzzz.  Phew. Gargle gargle.  Flight of the phoenix.  Crash and burn.

Joojoo bellies.  Psychedelic road trip.  Flying saucers disturb my saucy

Sausages.  Earth shattering.  Cataclysm.  Tie me up.  Tie me down.  Pour

some sugar.  Saltines.  Tea biscuits.  Paper machete.  It’s raining bullets.

Body parts.  Mutilated.  Heavy breathing.  Swallows and cranes.

Third base teeth and mouth.  Meow.  Cats and claws.  Magic bullets

swimming up my battered veins.  The bomb shelter, yes the bomb.  Stop.

I’m drowning.  Oh – the pain—excruciating pain—drown my sorrows,

shoot the pain.  Brimstone and treacle.  Intergalactic explosions.  Floating

corpses.  Persuasive poems.  The Cantos of Ezra Pound.  Pound.  Pound.

Pound?  No more brownies for me.  Damn those insects crawling up my


Angela Cohan

Photo by L.K. Thayer

© 2012

“Fold” by L. K. Thayer

I hate doing laundry
Especially my own
The clothes that I soiled
The folding
It’s so temporary
The folding because
It just comes undone
They say it all comes out in the wash
They say everybody is a winner
But to match socks and to
Save receipts and to balance my checkbook
Leaves me undone
Phobic actually, into paralyzing fits
Of truth or consequences
I rebel
I rebel at needing to balance my life
Trying to balance on the heels of
Spiked stilettoed truth
Far fetched is the good Samaritan
Who lends a hand to a damsel in distress
And gets his balls chopped off in the process
I rebel at clipping coupons and tightening my belt
And chasing dust bunnies under the rug

L. K. Thayer’s Foto Fetish

© 2010

“SZYMBORSKA” by Jack Grapes

I came home
Wednesday night from class
and Lori was ensconsed
like a caterpillar in a cocoon
on the bed, watching a movie on tv
about crazy people who fall in love
and break china.
“Szymborska died,” I said.

She reached for the remote and shut the tv off.
The room expanded into that quiet bubble we experience
when we shut off the tv.

She looked at me and said nothing.

What was there to say?

A friend dies, a poet dies, poetry lives on:
There’s nothing you can say.

It’s like turning off the tv,
and their passing
fills the space of our lives
with all that silence.
A balloon of being and nothingness,
a reduction of existence into a series
of appearances, overcoming those dualisms
that have embarrassed philosophy
and replacing them with the monism
of the phenomenon.

I put the clipboard I still had in my hand on the dresser
and began to undress. Then I got in the bed and lay beside her.
We still hadn’t spoken.

Szymborska was gone.

We just lay there for a bit, in the silence,
not sure who would break it,
not sure whose turn it was
to turn the moment
back into words.
You need a poet at a time like this,
and the poet was gone.

There was a small crack in the ceiling.
And a tiny cobweb in the corner.
Later, Lori’d probably get on a chair and with a tissue
wipe it away. That was her job, getting
those little tiny spider webs
gone before they engulfed the house,
our lives, the planet. Don’t
worry, dear reader, she’s on the job.
You will be safe.

“What’s my job?” asks Lori when she’s nagging me.
And I repeat the mantra: “To take care of me.”

But for now, with Szymborksa’s passing
still blooming into silence,
the cobweb would have to wait,
the crack would just have to bide its time.

Such a long silence.

Then I thought, fuck it.
I reached for the remote, and clicked the tv back on.

There went a teacup.
There went another.
It was good to get back
to a semblance of the world,
all that love and passion,
all those broken teacups.

Jack Grapes

(Author/Poet/Method Writing Teacher)

Photo by L. K. Thayer

© 2012

“acceptance” by L.K. Thayer

when you find it

it speaks to you

there is a soothing voice

a touch, a sense

of belonging

the uncertainty of yesterday is filled with passion

grace and Light

it illuminates your every breath

when you find it

the covers come down from over your head

your feet slip into the shoes

that once didn’t fit

and you can walk forever

with a new attachment to the earth

beneath your feet

when you make the discovery

a warm shawl is wrapped around

shadows of doubt, fear

and disbelief

you take on a new stroll

a saunter, a strut

you are able to enter doors

that were once closed

open windows that were hammered shut

look through curtains that allow you to see

the view, for the very first time

when it comes to you

welcome it, answer it, embrace it

ride the magic carpet

ride the wave of fortune found

take the joy ride


Poem & Photo by L.K. Thayer

Edit by Giempe, France

© 2012