17 Santa Cruz Poets — The 17th Annual National Poetry Month - 2012 PreviousNextHome


David Sullivan

David Sullivan
Photo credit: Amina Barivan

About David:

DAVID SULLIVAN’s first book, Strong-Armed Angels, was published by Hummingbird Press, and two of its poems were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. Every Seed of the Pomegranate, a multi-voiced manuscript about the war in Iraq, is forthcoming in June, 2012 from Tebot Bach. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review, and lives in Santa Cruz with his love, the historian Cherie Barkey, and their two children, Jules and Mina Barivan.


"They let their wings down"

                        (Sappho, fragment 42)

A glance at the rearview
as I brake for the red light.
The couple behind

is kissing full on,
the passenger’s hand’s wrapped up
in the driver’s hair,

twirling it around
her finger, while the other
turns her head forward,

lips still connected,
a side pucker that almost—
but doesn’t quite—break

off their raw hunger.
As if they wanted to be
in each other’s mouths,

wanted to swallow
not only tongues with their studs
but the belovéd.

I find I’m smiling,
try not to stare. Would they care?
They occupy some

other plane of being,
one I dimly remember,
when the heat consumed

everything trivial
and living on kisses was
not an expression

but our fuel. I’m filled
with wonder that their passion
obliterates us,

wings them to a world
where no one can touch them
who isn’t, also, touched.

Insurrecion Popular

Our eyes are burning with tear gas, but at least now
we can see the government for what it really is.
Oaxacan Teacher, Radio APPO, November 2nd 2006

The zócalo’s hung
with plastic tarps strung taut
between trees to ward

off the rains, collect
what cascades into buckets
for makeshift campsites.

These teachers are steeled
for what they know will come down.
Rains won’t drive them off,

but a military
made up of northern recruits
who have no first names.


At night I return
to see men under wooden
bulls strung with fireworks

that spin while they dance.
The crowd retreats in a wave,
eyes closed against sparks

that spit and shoot off.
A saint’s being celebrated,
but a wilder force

colors campesino       
faces who know this city
wants to deny them.


The men stop. With great
ceremony and whistling
a woman’s brought forth,

ducks into the frame
of a Quetzal twice her height.
Everyone’s silent

while the fuse is lit.
Sparks blind us as she stands, starts
spinning until light

streams off like comets—
then she’s on us, lunging
into the close-packed throng.


This is serious,
she feints and I backpedal,
fall on church-yard stones,

fearing I’ll be burned,
but she leaps over my form
to make others shriek,

dancing out of herself
until, exhausted, the bird
extinguished, she rides

the shoulders of men
into her tent. The sign reads:
Una Sola Voz.

This is the Modern World that I've Read About

Where am I headed?
To the 7-11,
its styrofoam cups

and revolving pie
displays, gelatinous cherries
oozing onto trays,

sticky throw aways.
I’m going to shoot the shit
with Taimoor-khan

who says Pakistan’s
pastries, like besan burfi’s
sugary diamonds,

cardamom scented—
Light as air under angels—
cannot be tasted

without changing faiths.
And the wanna-be-black white
highschoolers jack up

their jeans jangling in.
He scowls down their fake ID’s
before passing cigs,

Matches? He slaps them
down, turns back to me. You cannot
imagine it here,

there’s no poetry.
I want to say it’s different,
it’s what you do with

what you’re given,
but he’s counting back up to
forty, making change

for the gum-happy
goth girl whose fishnets are torn
carefully, while friends honk

and snorts of laughter
shake the car she just gassed up.
It’s 11:30,

the place is jumpy,
coked up, caffeinated, high
as a cartwheeling

kite headed to earth
after a glass-shard-smeared string
of a rival cut

it loose. We’re flailing
for some kind of sustenance
that our grandmother’s

laid up in jam jars
sealed with paraffin, dated
with permanent ink,

or slapping down nan
and kneading it on marble
until it’s glossy. 

We want the blind man
to orchestrate what we see
in the shapes of stars—

hear our histories . . .
or is it just me? Aching
for deliverance

while scratching lotto
tickets Taimoor slips to me
to commiserate

with the poor who’re gypped
with voluntary taxes—
pay for sympathy.

I love every soul
that cracks open this glass door
and enters our light,

or try to—lottos
are piling up at my feet—
expanding outward

from the fluorescents.
I carry an orange crush
into the heaven

that I’ve been given,
waving to Tamoor through glass—
but he’s already

clicked the sound on
on his Pakistani soap—
Khuda hafiz, friend,

let the right one in
and you are mated for life.
God doesn’t choose sides,

but sides with those who
have none. Someone vaselined
the stars, they slip free.

Ancheta || Atkinson || Crux || Dancing Bear || Freeman || Glick || Ifland || Moody || Omosupe || Robbins || Sirens || Spencer || Sullivan || Sumrall || Tagami || Teutsch || Weisner
  Co-sponsored by Poetry Santa Cruz and phren-Z   A publication of Santa Cruz Writes