Story by Portia Choi
Photographs by Ezekiel Espanola
LisaAnn LoBasso was the featured poet in April 2018. LoBasso has performed in California and nationally. She has performed as a featured poet with past California Poet Laureate Al Young and also in well-known venues such as the Bowery Poetry Club, the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe, Cornelia Street Cafe, and A Gathering of Tribes in New York City.
LoBasso said that she “started performing when I was about 18 years old. I began performing while in college at Berkeley and then performed at the art gallery at Bakersfield College (BC) while back in Bakersfield for the summer. During my time in town back then, I also curated and organized exhibits at BC.” Although she’s been on a long hiatus from performing, she has performed a few years ago at the Claremont Reading Series, in Los Angeles County, after being asked by a retired professor who has been her lifelong mentor, as well as at Bakersfield College in an event that honored poets of this valley.
When asked what it was like to recite her poetry to a local audience at the Open Mic, LoBasso said that “I can perform almost on automatic. But, I always want to do something new. I don’t write poetry right now, so I did not want to repeat the same poems again to the same people.”
At the April Open Mic, LoBasso commented that the photographer Ezekiel Espanola was a close friend. She said, “He thanked me, how I had influenced him to pursue the arts, that said that without my influence he may not have conceived art as a career option. I met Ezekiel when I had the nX (Non-Profit Arts Venue). He felt we had created a true artists’ community and was doing his own work to try to influence the arts in our county and he wanted to be involved and try to combine some of our efforts.”
When asked about her writing habit, LoBasso said that when and if she writes, she “sets aside time, usually late at night or early in the morning when it is quiet. In the past , I might have taken my computer into a corner in a dark bar where I’d be left alone to my soda water and thoughts, but now I don’t do that. When I was very young, I hand wrote everything. And then typed it out on a typewriter. It was a cumbersome process. Sometimes when I was out, I’d write on anything, a napkin or a receipt, but eventually, as technology advanced, I wrote directly into the computer.”
About the book that she is working on she said, “I wrote 7,000 words in one day. I’m a high intensive writer when I write, but I’m more restricted physically than I used to be. I cannot just sit at a computer and write. Instead, I may dictate to another person or voice record and then have it transcribed. If I write, I write whatever thoughts I have and avoid all self-editing on that first initial draft.”
When speaking about the poetry community in Bakersfield, LoBasso said “There is an interest in the community more than I have ever seen, but it doesn’t always feel like more people are involved in the organization of poetry events. It would be great to see more and more people who are interested step up and initiate more events.”
LoBasso is currently concentrating on a writing project which is not poetry but relevant to our current societal changes.
She has published two books of poetry: In the Swollen and Oleander Milkshake.
Two of the poems that LoBasso recited at the Open Mic are “Sugarloaf” and “Third Marriage.” LoBasso said, “’Sugarloaf’ was written in the first few months of Jasmin’s life in 1992 and ‘Third marriage’ was written in May 2015 when Jasmin married.”
by LisaAnn LoBasso
In Sugarloaf, in the center of 102
acres, her twenty-three inch body
watched trees grow, saw streams
flow below the earth, heard wet
sugar dripping from branches where
whispering birds shot from waterfall
A poem always has rape in it.
Molestation crawling from the walls.
Anger scrawled in a dark place, in a poem.
When she turned, I didn’t answer her gurgle.
Her white skin, pasting her body together,
Tightened as she smiled.
And I smiled. What is this?
Everyone needs peace.
Yes, from the fear in a hollow space, in a poem.
Her syrupy body glimmers in the daylight.
Her eyes glaze over as the fog creeps around
her cheeks whining red.
She licks my nose, nodding her football head
when I laugh.
Her small hands clasp my hair, ripping it.
I stare at her lightbulb body.
How could anyone not love her body?
How could any man love her body?
She is my baby, my daughter dripping
sweet from her mouth like sap from leaves.
Her eyes are blue-grey like the pewter sky.
I don’t doubt for a minute that she loves her life.
Her grandfather blasts Gatorade cans off fallen
logs where I spot deer tracks.
Her grandmother wipes her diamond chin
As white slop flows like a river.
Why can’t life be like the forest, she crinkles
her question, her forehead growing old
like her mother.
I flatten my face in the icy creek
that dries up in seconds. The tress fall.
Birds boomerang into oak trunks and crash
to the sad earth.
I am still mesmerized by her body,
its picturesque innocence dripping
sweet square sugarloaf, I almost cannot
hear the roar of the monster
eating the mountain
filled with rape, incest
molestation in the dark silent squirrel holes.
by LisaAnn LoBasso
It’s 11:14pm, the night before you will wed
The rehearsal dinner just ending, we slipped out
hours early, for the needs
of our abandoned bear
scratches on her head
The girls henna and polish, scrub and thread
The black and white flashdrive missing
No, no, not in the hole
of my coral cross-body bag
It’s the final hour
The sweet short poem I was to read is tossing back
a nightcap with the flashdrive
I scour the world wide web for something to
capture a moment, a poet’s perfected ppppp
(But) there is no alliteration for marriage
I know I should be writing your wedding poem
But I dont write poetry anymore
I read Sharon Olds
holding each other by the hand, yet I also
stood as if alone, for a moment,
just before the vow…
the silent, dry, crying ghost of my
parents’ marriage there…
…one of the plummeting flies…
I’m zombie-ing through, you
insert yourself to claim a promise
set into motion more than two decades ago
Two weeks, only my back to you
as wedding moments whisk
I remember my apartment in Rockridge, 18, before you
As your Grandma and Grandpa set me out on my own
I remember my mother’s back
My father scolding
“Look what you’ve done now”
Stuck in the transition, I think liar,
my mother doesn’t cry
But, I edge around her
and I see
Today is your third marriage
I should be practiced for this rehearsal, but
Leanardo never took you from the sinking ship
Or my arms, when you confessed your love,
kissing the television
It was a marriage of sweet spirit
the storyline already laid out
Number 2 was simple too
your sister’s secret elopement with you
never made he newspapers
Or the scandal rags
It was a marriage of fantasy
sisters as close as hands and feet
Today, this marriage,
your third marriage
is all about reality
That you would rather share a coke
With him, than anyone
Mothers do not walk brides down aisles
lift veils, or shake hands
Letting go is in the grace
It’s a love like sugarloaf pines
High on the moantian
you stand to the left, my baby, pewter eyes,
tradition signaling marriage by capture,
your groom saving his fighting hand
to pick up the reigns, protect you
Weddings are the same everywhere,
families, complaints, promises,
reverie we can forget without the camera clicks
A few moments stick
Like Sirius XM calls
traditions disturbed by music
salesmen dripping uninvited
into this intimate moment
Your groom is quite sure
“No, no, I do not want to renew my service.”
Inconvenient rings magnifying. Freezing.
This is one of those stone moments
But hold them, don’t throw them
My father once said I will wed many times
I say, let the third be your last, my doll
My mother says: What,
no chocolate cake?
Fluffy promises of a covert cake operation.
My eyelashes fall off. I say
Let them not eat cake!