Andrena Zawinski is an award winning poet and educator, born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA who has made Alameda, CA her home. She has authored several collections of poetry: Something About (Blue Light Press, San Francisco) received a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Traveling in Reflected Light (Pig Iron Press, Youngstown) was a Kenneth Patchen competition winner in poetry. Her chapbooks are Taking the Road Where It Leads (Poets Corner Press Honors Publication), Zawinski's Greatest Hits 1991-2001 (Pudding House Invitational Series), Poems from a Teacher's Desk and Six Pack Poems To Go Postcard Collection (Harris Publications). Her individual poems have appeared in Quarterly West, Gulf Coast, Nimrod, Slipstream, Rattle, Many Mountains Moving, Pacific Review, Psychological Perspectives Journal of Jungian Thought, The Progressive Magazine and others with several Pushcart Prize nominations and work widely anthologized. She founded the San Francisco Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon in and is editor of their anthology: Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down (Scarlet Tanager Press). Zawinski has been PoetryMagazine.com's Features Editor since 2000.

 

 

Zawinski Poetry Sampler

Singing Bird Haibun
“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, 
and the grass grows by itself.” Basho

 

 
It is not a steely-eyed egret nor heft of pelican but just a singing bird that catches my fancy 
from a balcony perched across from pines lining the marina. Here I make watch of another 
shifting sky, distant buoy sounding swells in the bay, common robin chiming in on the wind.

 
resting in my palm 
it might pulse at the heart line
practice its pitch

 
But this bird makes its roost in the forked trunk, where branches droop heavy with cones. 
Like this robin, I try to perfect a voice in the intimate language of birds, call back at it, 
parroting the rise and fall of its wistful warbling, practicing the melodic whistling.

 
the robin carols
in a cathedral of pine
all feather and trill

 
Everything readies for something - above, wide wings of dark crows fan the horizon. Below, 
a ray steers clear of a row. A dog splashes into the water, his boy crying for a lost oar. 
Twilight settles on tapping riggings and masts, breeze in the tinny chimes, spring in the song.

 
the clouds feathering
disappear into sunset
the bird still singing

 

 
~1st prize, Tiferet Jounal 2014

 

 

 
Rosie Times
“How do you know you are going to die?”
I begged my mother...With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”~Naomi Shihab Nye

 

 
My mother, born into the flapper era, never bobbed 
her hair, never sported drop waist dresses with a cloche, 
nor did she cover her face with pancake and rouge,
lifting her skirt above her knees in speakeasies 
or on Gatsby verandas. She came of age in World War II.
Draped in white coveralls, hair wrapped in a red scarf 
under a hardhat, clear goggles shielding her amber eyes,
she welded Pressed Steel’s boxcars outside Pittsburgh

 
                       like women in Toledo hauling Jeep parts to Ford lines,
                       like those assembling fuselages on bombers in Long Beach 
                       or for Boeing’s Flying Fortresses in Seattle, 
                       like women filing bullets for the Army, 
                       or building ships at California’s Richmond docks,
                       like those feeding blast furnaces in steel mills, 
                       sparks flying at the giant cauldrons of molten steel.

 
                       Liberty Girls~the women on railroads, in shipyards, 
                       as pipe fitters and riggers, bus drivers and mechanics,
                       like those shooting riveting guns or ferrying planes, 
                       ratcheting with wrenches or lighting torches, 
                       arms linked across America with the plains women, 
                       with the farm women, the desert and mountain women, 
                       with the city women, even with Marilyn Monroe, 
                       who as Norma Jean, attached propellors to planes.

 
My mother never jumped drunken in her clothes 
into a fountain like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s new women, 
but she did drop, donning her mail order rayon sheath,
from a rowboat into the lake, belting out the high notes 
of Indian Love Call at a USO picnic. She learned 
to love the night shift as a blackout air warden 
and became the woman who I would later blast
for not pulling free from my father’s fierce grip.
 
I have become the woman who no longer wonders 
how I dared knuckle into my own fist, raise it high
for rights in rallies and marches for reason and right
because I had a mother who dared give up a job 
as a nursemaid for the rail yard and factory,
relinquish the girdle to the rubber drive, who never 
threw off the helmet for the apron, and went on 
living as if she could do anything~making a fist.

 
~ Human Equity through Art 2014

 

 
Women of the Fields  
--for Dolores Huerte, UFW co-founder
 who declared her a born again Feminist at 83

 
The women of the fields clip red bunches of grapes 
in patches of neatly tilled farmland in the San Joaquin, 
clip sweet globes they can no longer stand to taste - 
just twenty miles shy of Santa Cruz beach babies 
in thongs, Pleasure Beach surfers on longboards, 
all the cool convertibles speeding the Cabrillo Highway
women line as pickers, back bent over summer’s harvest.

 
The campesinas labor without shade tents or water buffalos, 
shrouded in oversized shirts and baggie work pants, disguised 
as what they are not, faces masked in bandanas under cowboy hats 
in fils de calzón-

 
                               
the young one named Ester taken in the onion patch 
                                with the field boss’ gardening shears at her throat, 
                                the older one called Felicia isolated in the almond orchard 
                                and pushed down into a doghouse. The pretty one, Linda,
                                without work papers, asked to bear a son in trade 
                                for a room and a job in the pumpkin patch,
                                Isabel, ravaged napping under a tree at the end of a dream
                                after a long morning picking pomegranates, violación de un sueño. 
                               
Salome on the apple ranch forced up against the fence 
                                as the boss bellowed his ecstatic Ave, Ave Maria.

 
The promotoras flex muscle in words, steal off into night 
to meet face-to-face to talk health care, pesticides, heatstroke, rape, 
meet to tally accounts - forced to exchange panties for paychecks 
in orchards, on ranches, in fields, in truck beds - to speak out to face 
joblessness and deportation to an old country, a new foreign soil. 

 
Women of the fields, like those before them, like those 
who will trail after - las Chinas, Japonesas, Filipinas - 
to slave for frozen food empires in pesticide drift, 
residue crawling along the skin, creeping into the nostrils 
and pregnancies it ends as they hide from La Migra 
in vines soaked in toxins or crawl through sewer tunnels, 
across railroad tracks, through fences to pick strawberries, 
for this, this: la fruta del diablo.

 
~Thomas Merton Center’s The New People 2014

 

 

 

 
What About a Fight?

 
What is it that balls a man’s fists into sudden rage,
jabbing and blocking, body weaving and swaying -
a poker bet gone bad, tiff over a last shot and beer,
wrong song on the jukebox, something the other guy
said years ago to the woman he didn’t marry anyway?

 
What is it, when the brawl tumbles into the street,
rubberneckers honking horns, grunting OohRah!
even when one face is already kissing the pavement?
No Sugar Ray or Ali, what drives the everyday Joe,
digs in so deep, courses across scarred knuckles,
the broken tooth, blackened eye, flattened nose?

 
They say my father liked a fight. Was it his old juvie record
trumping determination or hope, his annulled marriage
to a bigamist collecting veteran’s checks, or layoffs at the mill
just before benefits kicked in, a monotony of existence?

 
What of those of us who years later toss and turn over 
brutal thoughts that won’t abate, still hearing the screech
of a police car hitting the curb, the smack of the body
slamming the asphalt? They say my father liked a fight.

 
And as they carted him off to jail again, what of the wife -
my mother behind the window’s bent blind slat
who, as the cruiser takes off, she thinking I am not there
to hear her own wounded spirit sigh, says:
“Finally, maybe now I can get a good night’s sleep.” 

 
~Arroyo Literary Review Pushcart Prize Nomination;
PEN Oakland Fightin' Words Anthology.