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 (2009, Blue Light Press, San Francisco) received a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Traveling in Reflected Light  (1995, Pig Iron Press, Youngstown) was a Kenneth Patchen competition winner in poetry. Her chapbooks are Taking the Road Where It Leads (2008, Poets Corner Press Honors Publication), Zawinski's Greatest Hits 1991-2001 (2002, Pudding House Invitational Series), Poems from a Teacher's Desk and Six Pack Poems To Go Postcard Collection (1993 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 2007 and is editor of their anthology: Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down (2013 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

 

 
On the Road, Hijacked by Memory
We draw our strength from the very despair 
in which we have been forced to live...” Cesar Chavez

 
Riding another idle Sunday afternoon 
along a sun-drenched blacktop stretch, 
coasting through California’s Central Valley, 
its pastures peppered by slaughterhouse steer, 
its fields dense with migrants--some sporting 
the UFW eagle on caps, packing themselves 
into growers’ old school buses, all of them off 
to bend and hoe, chop and prune, pick and haul 
the Ag Giants nuts and roots and fruits
for the Walmart Super Centers and Taco Bells.

 
In the car’s backseat, onion dome churches crop up 
in my head, their rows of candles lit again 
for all my dead, for the Ukrainian grandfather, 
face reddened from the heat of hot steel, muscles 
knotted and clothes grimy, who choked to death 
struggling to form words in a strange tongue, 
lungs dense in smoke and soot, air and water fouled 
by the job he did for Carnegies forging Pittsburgh steel.


 

For the Slovak one who took UMW picket signs 
to the coal bosses instead of pick and shovel 
down the pitch dark shafts of the Windber mine, 
survived a cave-in, but not being robbed 
by the company town or coal dust polluting his chest.


 

For my mother on the assembly line night shift 
at Federal Enamel inspecting pots and pans 
for dimples and blisters, one hand 
at the small of her aching back bent over the Amana
            the other scrambling eggs and getting me off 
to school neatly dressed and with a full belly. 

 
For my father at Pressed Steel welding railroad cars 
in the McKees Rocks Bottoms, tagged Cossack 
and taunted to jump and spin and kick, 
who got lost in a bottle of vodka and thorazine, 
            just a blue collar chasing down a middle-class life.

 
But the range here today along this California stretch
runs ragged in rain shadow in a watery-eyed sky 
above tract homes and trailer camp estates, 
billboards boasting sprouting condos, commercial 
real estate for Nestles’ Purina works, another
Chrysler Jeep dealership, new strip mall saddling up
to wheat and oats and alfalfa, the Delta’s humpback hills 
carpeted green in spring, all predictable, unlike this 
day trip, hijacked by memory, then released 
to detour along a bumpy backroad, my own breath 
now heavy-laden, my every muscle aching.

 
~Bloodroot Literary Magazine 2013

 

 

 
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.