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2019 Poetry Review

"I get it!"

"I get it!" Tony Soprano, on peyote, gets it before he really gets it.


by James Mitchell

We were headed for the waters.
To that place where they slowed down;
To laze alongside the yellow meadow,
And down to the valley, further on.

You strode into those waters like a goddess,                                              
White dress hiked high up on your waist.
Sun shine was flaming in your hair,
White light was streaming from your face.

And our popsicles glowed like precious stones.
Emeralds shimmered, and the rubies throbbed.
They were crystalline hearts on sticks in our hands.
God sat and laughed with us in the sand.

No need to call it what it wasn’t.
It was just a blue peyote day,
Yes and a lazy, Mescalero afternoon.

We could hear the silence of the moment;  
See it in the clouds of sunlight on the air.
Your hair was crackling in the heat.
Water and insects buzzed in there.
We stepped into that moment on the dry grass;    
Holding tight to the book filled with everything.
We heard the whole world murmering in the air,
Then you straightened your dress and smoothed your hair.

Never saw it hiked up high like that again;
Left you at your old, rambling, hillside cottage.
Guess I hoped that we could try all that again;
But I have not seen you once since then.
Don’t know why you crossed my mind this way.
It was just a blue, peyote day,
And a hot, dry Mescalero afternoon.
Just a true, true fine  . . .  Mescalero afternoon.  

by James Mitchell (* for bio)

Woodstock recreated drug-free at Woodacre, CA (* see below).



Fishing the River Hemingway by J. Macon King

Sun high noon
face turned up to see gold
under dappling branches make camp
Tie beer in cold river 
Escaped the city
to River Hemingway

Nick a fine fisherman
could read the undercurrent
tying flies his art
Nick’s baggie—of bait?
His familiar grin,
“ ‘Shrooms.”

Kick rotten log
catch grasshoppers for hooks
Thoughts jagged, big breaths,
walk down gravelly, rocky shores
icy, spring current sucking.
Chrome of Steelhead shine

“Steelhead, Rainbow
really the same,
trout are salmon so
Clear as mud!” 
Nick laughs

Wisping blue clouds in white sky,
or white clouds in a blue sky?
I grin at Nick, he gives a sign
“Oh boy, here we go!” 

Our little world
            intense               cartoons
in shimmering water
philosophical meanings
of pebbles ripple effects
Thoughts kinetic, competitive
Water a sentient being?
Each grain of sand a planet on our shore?
Fish smart or instinct?
We wonder same for ourselves

Fishing lines caught, trees, tulies,
tangle each other
“First strike!” He tugs,
ratchets, drags, reels in—
soggy fishing hat,
replete with hooks and flies      

Pulls lost hat on head,
water dripping,
shivers in a laughing fit
“Sentient Water Being
has taken me
for a lover.”
We howl

Shadowed by mountain,
Nick slowly speaks
or am I slowly listening?
“…at this sacred Indian ceremony.”

Fishing a challenge,
trout fight, digging in water,
jump into air, breaking lines

They become lost to us
His words resonate,
“If you love them,
you have to let them go.”
Lift my face to the sky,
white cupcakes float—
frosting with peaks and tufts,
from artist’s palette knife
Cupcake clouds make me hungry

Trout for dinner,
beer, bota bag
Night grows cold
More wood                                           
Nick’s last spliff,
perfectly round, tight,
Drum tobacco mixed,
Bugle Boy paper                        

Nick’s words,
“Moon is God’s nightlight
for frightened children
Yet, only sun’s reflection
Two lights from one source
Living in the city
we cannot see stars
We forget about them
but they’re up there.”

I come down—
still alone.
Still missing him
My fishing buddy Nick Adams
Damn your poetic madness
Damn your shotgun

by J. Macon King


From his Place under the Overhang in the Doorway of Smiley’s Schooner Saloon,
One-Eye Pete Squints out at the Rain

 by Dotty LeMieux


Says —

Look at the sky Man

It’s the new moon and the eclipse and something’s

flashing a light up there too

Look, there it goes again, it’s the spacemen

They’ve landed on Mt. Tamalpais


Me thinking — Old One-Eye sees more than the rest of us

with our two good eyes, secretly envy his talent


Thinking— He sees inside my head while dreaming; we dream

in tandem


It’s twilight in Smiley’s and the Winter Olympics

are on TV


Ed’s behind the bar, waiting for Nairobi Steve

to take over at seven o’clock


I’m drinking coffee with Hennessey in the doorway

with One-Eye, when this raindrop comes off the beam

over my head and lands in my drink


It’s the spacemen! They’ve landed in your drink.

See that? See that?


            Flashing there, a sparkle of reflected light


Pretty soon Big Carl comes back from investigating

and takes up his regular position at the door


Wasn’t it spacemen? asks the one-eyed man


Big Carl shakes his big head — Nah, it’s an electrical wire in the trees

It’s got a short or something


So Ed calls Jose at the fire station and he promises to notify

PG&E before the whole hillside goes up in smoke


One-Eye comes away from the doorway, big grin on his face —

Ain’t those spacemen something though?


Something - I say, my coffee gone cold in its cup


Big Carl doesn’t say anything; Ed pours another drink; on TV girls

in short skirts whirl their way across the frozen screen         


I toss the coffee to the ground, as a winking light sparks out of it

and flits away. Pete nods, shuffles, closes the door, shutting the night

with its secrets outside.          


by Dotty LeMieux


Trippy Hippie Poem "A Different Place" by Perry King, 1979

*Poet bios: James Mitchell, poet, musician, businessman, lived five years in Caracas, Venezuela and traveled in Asia, North America and Europe. He has the diverse experience of two U.C. Berkeley degrees and three years in the paratroops. Dotty LeMieux was publisher/editor of The Turkey Buzzard Review in the fabled lost city of Bolinas, Ca. She's published three chapbooks: Five Angels, Five Trees Press; Let us not Blame Foolish Women, Tombouctou; The Land, Smithereens Press, and has been published in numerous literary journals. Perry King is a Senior Editor of MillValleyLit, J. Macon King is the Publisher, and their bios may be found in our Salon sidebar.


Psychological Poems from real psych patients with drawings.

Introduction to Psychological Poems: Journal of Outsider Poetry
            by Richard Patel, MD. San Francisco General Hospital Dept. of Psychiatry & UCSF Medical Center

“I live for poetry. It saved my life,” “This is the first poem I ever wrote,” “The poem was talking. I just wrote it down,” “ This says it all for me, Doc,” “I hope this helps somebody else,” “This is my brain on words,” the vibrant comments accompanying the author’s works serve as a fitting introduction to Psychological Poems: Journal of Outsider Poetry. Pinned butterflies give little clue of their chaotic flight: and these poems are pinned butterflies.

In the beginning

a typical summer day in San Francisco: sharp sun belied a chill, bay wind laughing off your hat, and all that. As the on-call weekend psychiatrist, I shielded myself from the guffawing blast, straightened my spectacles, bowtie and remembering the saying of a former supervising therapist, “No one can look threatening in a bowtie,” stepped into the hospital elevator. I had called in to examine a patient the nurses reported as floridly psychotic, “She hears voices constantly. And they can’t stop writing about themselves.”

Can’t stop writing about themselves? In my years working at San Francisco General Hospital I’ve seen many notable things. County hospital psychiatric emergency rooms offer an endless parade of proof that, as a species, we are very clever at tangling ourselves up. Rarely, however, do patients  in-the -moment document their internal experiences and mental distress. There are manic patients that will write lengthy megalomaniacal manifests, present crushed wads of smudged paper brimming with diagrams, iniquitous physics, maps of the most dreadful levels of their private underworlds. Yet, this patient’s plight was intriguing.

(Editor’s note: After consulting with the woman and receiving her sheaves of paper filled with looping lines, Dr. Patel encouraged as much access to paper as the woman pleased. An epiphany struck him and he put up some posters in the hospital for poems. Ten submissions later he broadened his call to other west coast psychiatric institutions. Six months later he had collected over 2,500 works. There are now five volumes of these Journals.)
Since the first issue, a wider variety of poets, non-poets, hospital staff, police officers, psychiatrists, nurses, trainees, and many, many persons with mental illness have submitted their labors to form this impressive divergent corpus. And what unique minds! A “poem” without words from a man who cannot write nor speak, an urban Voodoo chant, hip-hop stream of consciousness, insights into electroshock, nets cast around stars and personal demons, a vast host of perceptions from this group of Outsider poets expressing their idiosyncratic experiences of the world.

These authors cut dangerously, laying out in words portrayals of a darkest caliper; the works are witty, oft oblique, from perspectives inspired by what most of us cannot imagine. There are a series of poems...that are highly critical, displaying mistrust, revolt and dependence – the normal ambivalences people experience toward their mental health providers, institutions and treatments. Included are various poems of mania, depression, trauma, anxiety, psychosis, each unflinching page turning the reader into another scene of unmitigated emotion, cognitive distortion and perceptual shift. The poems dig unwaveringly, exposing dark earth and light waters of humanity. Here churn good and evil aphorisms, engendering appall and empathy toward these poets who are living "in-between." These poems jar. We hope you enjoy these brief poetic journeys into darkness and enlightenment, and all of the oddly alluring places in between. It’s not a trip for the wary. Travel safely.

            Dr. Rick

(Note these pages are chosen from the five Journals, not specific to above intro.)

Dr. Rick & friend at home. Editor of Psychological Poems.


Groovy pants, dudes!

*Celebrating 2019's 50th Anniversary of Woodstock early the Woodstock Festival was recreated in Woodacre, Marin County, CA in 2017 with a cast of hippies and vintage vehicles. Mid-September, stage towers and a camp were set in West Marin's Dickson Ranch for VW's upcoming TV commercials. 1/2 of the 60 second spot aired during The Voice Oct. 30 of that year, oddly without showing any new vehicles! In the full commercial, part of Rancho Nicasio roadhouse, the Fire House and St. Mary's Church in Nicasio, CA are visible in the beginning.

The soundtrack is Joe Cocker's rendition of "With a Little Help from My Friends." After a rainstorm hippies push the old microbus out of the mud, and a classic VW Beetle appears. A voiceover plugs the new warranty, saying, "VW drivers have always put others first, now we are returning the favor." We suspect more ads to come, as we saw firsthand the big production behind the scenes, for their new 2018 Microbus. The minivan, as it was commonly known, was embraced by hippies, musicians, travelers and young families as fun, inexpensive, easy-to-work-on transport.

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Author photos, this issue, from the authors.

Posters from web sources.

Hippies, labyrinth, uncredited photos by J. Macon King.

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All writing, submissions, and comments are the views of the respective authors and interviewees do not necessarily reflect the views of MillValleyLit or Editorial staff.