Reflections on the Process — Jessica Ceballos

It’s easy to pull words from the same pool we allot ourselves, so what makes this project difficult, but equally rewarding, is that those words may not be in this pool of words. This forces us to look beyond the usual way we’ve trained our brains to respond to the themes that interest us. And that creates this domino effect of forcing us to look beyond those usual ideas or structures. I found myself taking notes while trying to figure out what the next line was gonna be, because some of the words whispered to me some pretty wild ideas. Also, I’m always looking for different processes, and using the fevered writings as thesaurus is my new favorite, it’s constrictive which I find helps me focus in on an idea, while at the same time not having the words might let us get away with writing somewhat abstractly. A really wonderful project, thank you so much for inviting me Terry! 
 —Jessica Ceballos


January dis•articulations poem by Terry Wolverton

At the beginning of the month, Terry gave collaborating poet Jessica Ceballos 4 writing prompts. Jessica produced fevered writing for each prompt and gave it back to Terry. This is the poem Terry has dis•articulated:


Years ago I stirred the future
until skyline fell to dirt.
I whispered an outlaw language
that only women heard.
I tasted the orange of the city
on the backs of their necks.
Every day we would bend and lock;
where was the place for wonder?

I became mother to the whales,
visited their seven waters.
I could stay under a long time
and trade funny stories in Spanish.
This was a weapon superior
to history; I could ask them
how they planned to foreclose time,
what the new world would be.

I longed for a chair in the grass
on top of a hill, the canyons
of downtown before me, digestible,
rarified cliffs and new malls.
From this place I could see
the after-years, when all questions
would fall back to the orange dirt,
when I would belong to another life.

— Terry Wolverton

We’re still open for reader poems for the January contest until midnight PST on January 31, 2015. Poems can be based on the prompts, the fevered writing, or the dis•articulations poems. The prize is $25.

January dis•articulations poem by Jessica Ceballos

At the beginning of the month, Jessica gave Terry 4 writing prompts. Terry produced fevered writing for each prompt and gave it back to Jessica. This is the poem Jessica has dis•articulated:

the principles of mathematics

Not-so-simple economics is what convinced us to
look for the edges of this world extreme.
Though karma corrected our arguments,
we are allowed to keep loveless arms
from robbing the luckier of us.
The Problem?
We used to jump into the sky,
no one needing to prove anything,
completing unfulfilled screaming desires.
They said lucky, we said…blue.
Doing/done. Breathe
Now it takes two whole days
for the madness to run through this space,
to make us happy, one more time,
to exist with one another, for one more day.
Tangled/better. Dream
Whatever he said was less than
what each of us needed, to ensure…an us.
Dark/We wait.
The new mattress on the bed,
has been worse than bad.
Instead of trying to convince each of us to worry less,
we confronted those dark nights, for peachier mediums.
You and I don’t need a we.
-Jessica Ceballos
We’re still open for reader poems for the January contest until midnight PST on January 31, 2015. Poems can be based on the prompts, the fevered writing, or the dis•articulations poems. The prize is $25.

January Fevered Writing – Terry Wolverton

Terry Wolverton produced the following fevered writing based on four prompts provided by this month’s collaborating poet, Jessica Ceballos.

Medium brown girl in a dark blue world there is no happy medium we want to be extreme we want to live on the edge and jump into the sky instead we wait on this earth plane and if we’re lucky it’s just medium bad, though for many it’s much worse than that and for a few it’s just peachy that must be their karma to never have to confront their unfulfilled desires to never have to run through the streets screaming with madness no medium anything for them except maybe medium rare

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
One can do or one can be done to and that’s the whole problem—there’s no space to be and all of our interactions are based on this doing/done to model where is the space to simply breathe and dream, no one needing to prove anything, we could just look at one another and exsit and I don’t need to criticize you or I don’t need to get you to love me or I don’t need to win the argument or I don’t need to get you to do whatever it is you said you would do and we could be more like the dog and the cat

Less is more they say, but doesn’t that go against all the principles of mathematics, not to say economics? What if those who have more are just trying to convince the rest of us that they really have less, or trying to convince us that we’re luckier to have less because, after all, it is more. They keep us so tangled up in our lust for a new refrigerator or the latest gadget that we can’t see we have been robbed blind. Look at the beggar; isn’t he better off with only his bowl to worry about?

Two Days, One Night
It used to be we’d have a night for each day, but now time has speeded up and there’s no room for all that sleeping. Now we get one night for every two days and we just have to make do with that. Each of us needs to ensure we’re completing the correct number of units of production and that can’t happen while we’re horizontal on the bed. It’s been suggested we really only need one night per week, but the mattress makers got up in arms about that, as did the purveyors of cocktails.

Readers are encouraged to write your own poems inspired by the prompts or the fevered writing and post them to comments. The best poem we receive this month will be awarded a $25 prize.


January Fevered Writing – Jessica Ceballos

This month’s collaborating poet, Jessica Ceballos, did the following fevered writing based on four prompts given her by Terry Wolverton:

New weapon against superbugs will just be another weapon against superbugs, against bugs, only making them super. Superior. What would happen if all the bugs in the world were destroyed? Do we need more weapons, against anything? I suppose when we make things strong enough to destroy us, we think twice, until we can make us stronger to destroy.

Mall closes after woman falls seven stories
I didn’t want to be there the time he fell off the chair, standing up, did I say fell? I didn’t want to be there the time he fell of his cliff, that time was way too close to call, way too close to where he wanted to be. Malls should close when people fall seven stories, so that they don’t have to wonder if she fell on purpose, hearing them ask themselves that question for the rest of their lives.

More than 50 sperm whales, including mothers and calves, visited Orange County
I would like to trade places with a sperm whale, have her live in Los Angeles for a day, the day before she visits Orange County. Calves don’t belong in Orange County, unless they plan on staying. Maybe the whales can stir the waters, make them digestible, taste better, and share the Orange County stories with their Alaskan friends.

the future was such a long time ago, she whispered into the back of my neck, just under my ponytail, as I was bending down to lock my hoverboard. It was the first time we went riding up this particular canyon, where I’d gone hiking everyday 30 years ago, when it was covered with grass and dirt. The city was called Los Angeles then, and Spanish wasn’t such a rare language. From the top of this hill we would be able to see the downtown skyline, maybe even city hall. Funny how we thought we’d never see the day when grass was outlawed and “ethnicity” became a historical term. The future was such a long time ago.

Readers are encouraged to write your own poems inspired by the prompts or the fevered writing and post them to comments. The best poem we receive this month will be awarded a $25 prize.

Reader poem by Olga Garcia

Our first reader poem! Thank you, Olga.

New Weapon Against Super Bugs

It’s tragic to be swallowed up by freeways
electronic devices & super bugs
I’m a junkie, a sac of water, blood, and bones.
My mind’s a wild monkey
who has yet to read Thich Nhat Hanh
Sometimes evolution regresses
I used to come to poetry with so much want,
emotions bursting open. The word was my fist
full of flowers, my weapon
These days poetry eludes me
I wake up groggy with headline hangover
I’m covered in dog hair,
barking at formalities. Good morning my ass!
I scowl at Thanksgiving
hate White Elephants during Christmas
The neighbor’s laugh annoys me
I’m a scrooge, a moody bitch,
a lazy witch who’d rather sleep than sweep
her flying broom across this dusty room
I used to…that’s the line of the jaded…I used to
have cinnamon sticks & tuberoses
in my poetic mix
but now my poems reek of dampness
The ceiling in my bedroom had a leak
& someone’s dirty bath
water came raining down on me
It’s been weeks & I’m still waiting for repairs
for the Lords of the Land
to come examine the tiny hole, the slit of an eye
staring down from the soggy ceiling
(it could be made of tofu for all that I know)
My poetry used to apologize often
worry, edit itself to death,
it used to posture in positivity
seeking out lightness, beauty–migrating monarchs
hummingbirds with electric wings
but now it’s ugly super bugs
that catch my eye
Like the winter mosquitos flying
drunk around the house, aimless
& void of gusto. When they land,
they wait, as if welcoming the end.
They’re nothing like the fat summer flies
that invaded this past August. Those flew fast
& low, buzzing loud, swooping.
Bold as drones. Super bugs for sure.
My lethal weapon? The Sun,
a literary magazine rolled up tight
Ha! Poetry! I swung it in the air like a bat
Smashed it hard against the wall, windows,
ceiling fans, TV. It took hours of intense combat
One by one they fell, these super flies
Unforgettable was the last and largest of them
It was the size of a dung beetle
In the bathroom it charged at me
kamikaze style several times
Finally, I whacked it dead
(was that a smirk on its plastered face
as I flushed it down the toilet?)
Alas, poetry had saved the day…I thought
Until that bright morning when I noticed
the small colony of white maggots
sprouting from the drain.

January’s Poetry Prompts

Prompts must be drawn from the media — print, broadcast or social media.

Poetry Prompts from Jessica Ceballos:

medium brown girl
Do to others as you would have them do unto you.
Less is more
Two Days, One Night
Poetry Prompts from Terry Wolverton:
New weapon against superbugs
Mall closes after woman falls seven stories.
More than 50 sperm whales, including mothers and daughters, visited Orange County
The future was such a long time ago

Readers are encouraged to write and submit poems of your own, inspired by one or more of these prompts.

January’s collaborating poet — Jessica Ceballos


In January, Jessica Ceballos will collaborate with Terry Wolverton to create new dis•articulations poems.
Jessica Ceballos is a poet, writer, designer, photographer, musician, community advocate and volunteer. During the day she helps to oversee the arts presentation space Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park (her hometown), where she also curates the literary arts programming. Aside from hosting the monthly Bluebird Reading series she also curates Poesia Para La Gente, a program that brings poetry to non-traditional, but familiar spaces. She is literature editor of Los Angeles-based arts & culture magazine YAY!LA and she makes up 1/4 of Writ Large Press, a downtown LA-based small publisher; she also holds a seat with the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, where she is chairs the Arts & Culture Committee and works to support policy and neighborhood development efforts that favor cultural and community sustainability over disproportionate economic advantage. Her written work has been published in various journals; print and online, and she has featured at various venues throughout Southern California, often times performing with musical accompaniment. Her poetry is also taught at Cal State San Marcos and UCLA.