Kern Poetry First Friday Open Mic, January 7, 2022

For the first Open Mic of the New Year (2022) we enjoyed wonderful poetry and a time of sharing.  

Two of the performers had participated in poetry open mic a decade ago, at Russo’s Bookstore at the Marketplace.  The poets, Shamir Kali Griffin and Sandra Rose Hughes, were interviewed by Carla Joy Martin for this story of the January 2022 Open Mic.  

Also performing their works were Carla Joy Martin, Anke Hodenpijl, Christopher Nielsen, Heather Ponek, Irene Sinopole, Jill Egland, Portia Choi, and Suzanne Weller.

You can see the video of the evening at
Passcode: &8c8MqWQ

And here are the interviews:

 Interview with Shamir Kali Griffin, First Friday Zoom Open Mic, January 7, 2022

By Carla Joy Martin

Shamir won 2014 Central Valley Favorite Author Award and 2021 Praised by December, first place in Poetry in an international contest. His books are Identity in Shades (2013), Tomorrow Morning (2015), Funeral Cry Lusa (2018), and The Living Wound (2021).

Here are the three poems Shamir shared with us that evening:

Discarded Senses

by Shamir Kali Griffin

At 25, he pressed his bodily weight against me,
He compressed the “no” I yelled into a murmur.
He was deaf to my refusal, and I became silent,
Drunken protest forever muted as he continued.
Men can be raped too even if we are hard, 
Even when the statistics are suppressed.
He grew intensely as I grew sluggish and drunk,
I pushed my hands against him weakly in protest.
He charged forward unbridled, unable to feel them,
I disassociated from this body as he ravished it.
There can be no justice for someone like me,
Even with evidence if police refuse to help.
My eyes search a cheap motel room for an escape,
Tear filled, and still he grows blind to “who I am.”
I die quietly in his arms, limp and unable to see,
While he saw learned helplessness as consent.
I told coworkers what had happened,
Only to hear that, “You wanted it.”
My tongue on which he tried to find sweetness,
Had been sedated by alcohol’s potent bitterness.
The lackluster taste of being dead while alive,
He devoured the flavorless moment I abandoned.
A man of stature and strength overcome by,
Someone lesser than me in build and morale.
He smelled of closeted family life and cologne,
The Living Wound Shamir Kali Griffin
A scent that clung to me even after he left.
This pungent odor that evokes shudders,
Olfactory reminders of who took away my senses.
Was there a correct response even after my no,
Or would every action become an accusation?
As he approached climax, he grunted boisterously,
The vast hills and valleys of my existence captured.
My pleas would not be heard as his only peaked,
All that I am and was became a victim once again.


by Shamir Kali Griffin

Hopeless memories and achievable dreams,
Regardless of outcome I turn to your shadow,
Like the last light of a fireplace before it cinders,
Like the dandelion seeds scattered to the wind,
All the valuable things originate from you.
Even if I am told that what I want is a lie,
I want to whisper my will into these seeds.
あなた を見つけた人は誰でも

Forcing myself to accept goodbye without knowing,
I watched as we gathered the free roaming seeds,
Once more they fluttered carelessly on your words,
As you let go of the future they floated toward,
Why do I hold on to a tomorrow you will not be in?
Even if I must lie to myself to live longer,
I want the will we once shared to stay alive.

The flickering sound of rotten leaves and flowers,
Burning comfortably in the furnace of your heart,
Leaves a haunting glow that singes the intangible,
I watched the dream you cannot awaken from,
Disappear from my sight as I moved forward still.
Even if this path was never one meant for me,
I have courage to walk it knowing you were there.

I selfishly held on to the seeds that were set free,
Digging into them to find the will you engraved,
Tears spill forward, rolling down my face’s canyon,
Eroding the monuments of joy time had shaped,
Unable to hold on to today or tomorrow, I wilt.
*あなた を見つけた人は誰でも
Whoever will find you
Whoever you become.
You will be the person I love (forever)


ゆうげん Yugen (Tranquil Beauty)

by Shamir Kali Griffin

The still surface of green tea in a porcelain cup,
Orange, red, and yellow leaves decorate the rim,
As if perpetuated by the unending breath of time,
The medicinal waves of herbs rinse away sickness.

The great evening calm blankets the world,
Still moonlight breaches the cloudy cobbled paths.
Frigid air runs its silk fingertips through those alive,
As liquid comfort provides a furnace of relief.

The scenes of families sitting at a dinner table,
The scent of lovers’ colognes and perfumes mixed,
The roar of new life brought into a world of COVID,
Are keepsakes that like the teacup still hold love.

A garland of altruist and philanthropist acts,
Encircle the homeless, doubtful, and forgotten,
Like the lunar rainbow that ensnares moonlight,
Warping something fragile into something lovely.

Snowflakes that fell like flower petals dance vividly,
Barren trees yearningly reach toward pewter sky,
Cinnamon baked apples’ scent fills my empty room,
I grasp beauty and solitude under memory’s quilt.


Q. What inspired you to write your poems?  What are their back stories?  

A. For my poem Discarded Senses, it was about coming to terms with the multiple sexual assaults in my life. The last one being when I was 24 and at that point, I had learned to accept that the rape was going to happen, and to not fight it. I did try and inform coworkers and police, however I got victim shamed and I wasn’t assisted. It took me over 6 years to come to terms with it, with the hope that others who felt this way find a bit of solidarity in a world that would rather not talk about it. With the poem Yugen, one day I was walking along the barren streets of Antelope under heavy morning fog and realized how different everything had become, and how restricted yet free the air was. At this point in time, we were in our first year of lockdown and we were all experiencing so many first, in the face of such isolation I found comfort in my writing as well as in the relics my family had left behind. The final peace Dandelion is inspired by the deep longlining of nostalgic love I have for my ex. He was the first person to not see me as worthless, an item, or solely for my skin and he taught me how to see these things in myself. Dandelions scatter wide and far like the distance we had between us both when we dated and now as friends, but I still pray and hope for his happiness before my own.

Q. Do you like to read poetry?  If you do, what poets have influenced you?  Who have messages you connect with, or styles you admire?

A.   I prefer to read Spanish suspense and mystery novels with my favorite writer being Carlos Ruiz Zafon, in regard to poetry I grew up reading the bible, as well pieces from Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, Alec Baldwin, Keets, Emerson, and Musashi. The greatest impact on my poetry style comes from two Japanese musicians/ singer songwriters Utada Hikaru and Camui Gackt. Whenever they sing their songs always seem to bring a plethora of images and create a deep feeling, something I haven’t experienced with many English contemporary musicians. I most recently finished reading Portia Choi’s book Sung-sook and Praised by December an anthology of poetry by writers from across the world.

Q.  What advice would you give to other folks wanting to create poems?  How do you make a poem?  Do you have a special place you go to, or music you listen to, etc.?  Give us a glimpse into your creative process.

A.  My advice for writing poetry is to try and be authentic with what you write. No one has to read it or hear it and when you first start pinning the pieces it should be about you. Once you’ve written it, take a step back from it and then take a second look a 

few days later. We will often catch typos, breaks in grammar, diction, and rhythm that way. Once you release the poem, be humble in the sense that others may not understand how your thought process works and be confident in what you wrote as no one can describe your experience better than you. Most of my poems come from a random feeling, thought, or smell that I will try and write down on paper first, then I’ll transfer it to my phone and wait a few days before reading it. From there I will move it to my laptop and practice saying it out loud. I try to find the right feeling for the poems, which can be scary. 

(NOTE:  We received a message from Shamir who said, “I just wanted to share this with you. I recently received a few favorable reviews for my latest collection of poetry which discussed being Native American, Black, and Two-Spirited. This is my most recent review

Congratulations.  We are proud of you, Shamir!


Interview with Sandra Rose Hughes, First Friday Zoom Open Mic, January 7, 2022

by Carla Joy Martin

Sandra shared this thoughtful poem with us that evening:

Write Your Way Home

by Sandra Rose Hughes

Something bad has happened to you.
The lid to your green-grass world has been torn off.
Being Snow White doesn’t work anymore.
You can’t just “sweet attitude” and “can-do” spirit your way out of this.

Was it your fault or was it theirs?
Where did you go so wrong?
You are lost, lost in the woods, with no Prince Charming in sight,
Though there are plenty of wolves.

How do you find your way back home?
After the bad thing, the thing that wasn’t supposed to happen, at least not to you, did?
As you wander, you ponder, and you tell yourself
Your story over and over again.

Sometimes people will listen. Often they will not.

Sometimes their flippancy or blame is a new wound to be healed.

You find a journal, and a pen.
You dip the pen in blood for ink, and use your tears to thin it.

The blood-letting helps.
Writing the story over and over and over and over and over and over again helps.
Until one day, you don’t have to write your story anymore.
You close the journal and cap the pen.
Because you find yourself out of the woods, back at home in yourself.


Q.  What inspired you to write your poem?  What is its back story?  

A.  The Poem, “Write your Way Home” was inspired by multiple life events in my
twenties where I often found myself wounded by the reality of the fallen world where we
live. God used poetry to help me heal from my first encounters with death,
disillusionment and the many conflicts surrounding marriage, relationships, and adulting. The message of the poem is essentially, “Write it down. Writing the pain helps.”  

Q. Do you like to read poetry?  If you do, what poets have influenced you?  Who have messages you connect with, or styles you admire?

A.  I love to read poetry, though I sometimes struggle to quiet my mind to truly
appreciate it. My love of poetry started with Jack Prelutsky in grade school, and has since
extended to Robert W. Service, T.S. Eliot, and many more. I love rhyming poetry,
messages of faith and redemption, relatable poetry, snarky poetry that expresses attitude
and irritation, and poetry that makes me laugh.

Q. What advice would you give to other folks wanting to create poems?  How do you make a poem?  Do you have a special place you go to, or music you listen to, etc.?  Give us a glimpse into your creative process.

 A.  I believe poetry is good for the soul and a gift from God for all humans, even if
English wasn’t your strongest class in school. For those wanting to write poetry, my
advice would be: read poetry, then write poems in response. When I create a poem, it is
usually in response to the season of life I am in and lessons God is teaching me. Poetry is
a fantastic way to deal with grief. Some people play music or talk when they grieve. I
I try to spend 5-10 minutes a day writing and don’t put any pressure on myself to make it
“good.” I love to write long hand on a big yellow legal pad. Sometimes they turn out
well- most of the time they don’t; I have many failed poems. I try not to worry about
those; I will just write a new one tomorrow and trust in the process of poetry. Online
workshops and the input and feedback of other writers is also truly helpful. We live in a
great time for writers- help and support is only a zoom meeting away.