Artist you should knowArts and CultureNewsSan Francisco

Broke-Ass Poets: Barbara Berman

The Bay's best newsletter for underground events & news

This week’s Broke-Ass Poet is Barbara Berman, author of The Generosity of Stars (Finishing Line Press, 2008) and Currents (Three Mile Harbor Press, 2018).

For Geraldine Law Lee.

When planes buzzed    during 1950s air shows
she   recalled   wartime   bombing   and   froze.

She wanted her kids to feel safe, to succeed,
and to know next to nothing of her fears and
her aid to the   Allies in   occupied Hong Kong.


At customs in Dallas in 1995 my husband
looked so foreign to a young crew cut official
in blue uniform whose grammar was not as
good as that of Cliff whose late parents were
Chinese American citizens, that the official
kept telling Cliff he had filled out the wrong
customs form, that he needed the form for
immigrants, and Cliff repeated in low tones
bracketed by unreturned “sirs” that he was
a United States citizen as his passport made
clear, and this went on for what seemed like
half an hour but was probably three minutes
until a tall, Stetson hatted white man behind
us looked over and down at Cliff’s paperwork
and said   “He’s good,”   to which the official
replied “Yes,   sir,”   and stamped our passports
we thanked the cowboy who nodded
as his own passport was stamped, and then
ambled into the arms of a fair-skinned woman
dressed in denim who wore gorgeous boots
in black and turquoise leather.

Sept. 25, 1978. San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives.


Hummingbirds see more red than humans and
when I see one with wings working as they do,
so fast I can’t name all its colors, it is blading a
small agapanthus I see in pale lavender, and I
imagine it sees a meaty crimson as it dives

deeper into the flower, and it’s all right that I
can’t go there because watching it dine gives
me respite, and that’s what I’d tell it if I could
speak its language, see what it sees.

Barbara Berman‘s poetry has appeared in The Rumpus, Lithub, Gargoyle, Women’s Voices For Change, the San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere, with a forthcoming essay in The Curator. She lives in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond District.

We’d like to get thematic with our poetry, beginning with some musings on the city we call home. Does the poetry you write practically scream San Francisco? Submit to to get your work featured!

Previous post

How To Deal With Toxic Family

Next post

We Wanna Send You to the Ruckus and Rumpus Revival Block Party!

Guest Writer

Guest Writer

We write for busboys, poets, social workers, students, artists, musicians, magicians, mathematicians, maniacs, yodelers and everyone else out there who wants to enjoy life not as a rich person, but as a real person. Namely, we write for you.

We’re currently looking to expand our author pool. If you’re snarky, know what’s happening in your town, and good at making your fingers type out funny words, then you might be just the person we’re looking for. Email with some writing samples if you're interested. Cheers