A Memoir of Teaching in LA’s Watts District
Testing the Waters
This story is the product of a single man’s reflections. Not a word herein can be verified. Much of what I say is not true. The events may never have happened. I did once hold the position of teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, but I would be the first one to agree that what appears here doesn’t come close to capturing the complexity of experiences that I had over the course of some twelve long years. These are fragments, shards as it were, scraps of information, barely worthy of being called narratives. If there were 10,000 events in my working life, I have chosen to share only a few of them, a tiny fraction of the whole. I have not been truthful, as I cannot tell the whole story. I could certainly have chosen to tell two, three, four, or even ten other anecdotes. You might read those stories and draw a conclusion in total opposition to what this picture reveals. If you were to conclude that my portrait of life as a public school teacher sounds delightful and enviable, I could share two others that might convince you otherwise. In reaction to these as yet unwritten stories, you might become beside yourself in anger, determined to get yourself a gun and head for the teachers’ union, the superintendent’s office or to my classroom in the mistaken belief that by doing so you would be improving the lives of American school children.
I had been teaching 8th grade English to a group of students with learning disabilities. There were some 15 students in the class and of the most difficult students was a short, tough little boy named Willy. He was short for his age and built like a boxer. He had shiny black skin and was rather good-looking, save for his angry, slightly pinched face. He was in fact smarter than he looked but had no real education; he was unschooled in virtually every way. My school, by the way, was located in the shadow of the famous Watts Towers, just across the street from the notorious gang projects.
Much of Willy’s personality and behavior can be explained by the fact that he had had to survive in that murderous environment. It would have been easy to forget where one was. With the splendid campus, the wide-open spaces, one might have felt that nothing could go wrong. One often wondered about the strictness of certain rules. Why not let the kids run off to the restrooms? Why not open one’s door in response to a tender knock? Alas, the jacaranda trees with their lovely purple blossoms that dotted the campus created an inviting but deceptively safe environment. One might have felt like sauntering about, humming a sweet tune, but if you were 14 years old, doing so could invite attack. It could mean a severe beating by a rival gang, a savage sucker punch delivered to one’s lower back, or sexual assault. Even stray dogs were not safe. One day some boys had found a young mutt, but instead of taking it to lost and found, they dragged it off behind one of the classrooms and used it to practice penalty kicks. They were aiming, I am told, for the large stain left by a eucalyptus tree that had been removed some years ago. Like a scene from a cartoon by Charles Schultz, one of the boys held the pup down while his friend took aim and gave it a good swift kick.
The poor thing smacked full force against the back wall. It either bounced some or slid straight down to the blacktop. Then then boys ran back to class and told their teachers they’d been in the bathroom doubled-over with a tummy ache. No doubt, dear Mrs. Adelina Wallace, a graduate of Mississippi Bible College (1957), was seated inside, magnificent in her Sunday best, an outfit consisting of a black cocktail dress and a string of pearls from Robinson’s Department store. She had not heard a thing, of course, only a dull thud, which she might have taken for a distant car door or the crack of a bat. Who knows what became of the poor thing’s body? If asked about it later, Mrs. Wallace might have pointed out that dogs were not supposed to be on campus in the first place.
Willy hit the boys, all of the boys but not the girls. There wasn’t a pecking order among them as far as I knew. Keisha stayed off by herself. Melody sat to the back but laughed out loud when the boys went at it. It thrilled her to see someone punched or hurt. She and Dante were friends, sort of. Letisha sat at the front and demanded attention. She wore pink hot pants all year round. The boys called her a hood rat, an expression I’d just as soon not have understood. But it was Amanda whom I had to watch. Actually, she was fine but it was crucial that no one be allowed to disturb her, least of all me, her teacher. She could be violent if provoked. She was a born enforcer, broad shouldered and muscular. Nobody challenged her. The boys stayed clear. Me, too, but I succeeded in finding a way to get her attention. This girl had a reputation. One of the teachers had told me that the year before Amanda had had to be restrained. She rarely took her seat. The police had to be called in on numerous occasions to help pull Amanda by the ankles out from under the cabinets where she liked to hide. I hadn’t seen any of this.
In the first week of school, I had placed complimentary calls to many of the parents including to Amanda’s mother, who, I’d heard tell, was as formidable as her daughter. Her mother was sick of getting complaints from teachers. “I’ve had Amanda all summer long but I don’t remember calling you.” “You got me there.” We laughed. I praised Amanda for coming to class on time with her supplies. I said how happy I was. I thanked both of them. Never mind that she had slapped Dante. Forgot completely about her use of the N-word. Ignored the fact that she’d picked a fight with Zeus. I let that all go and focused on the positive. Next day, I could do no wrong. She not only carried her books; she wanted to carry mine. When I named her student of the week, she danced all the way home. I never had to grab her ankles. When Mrs. Jackson dropped in to check things out, she just stood there. “Mr. Lohrey?” “Yes, ma’am.” “I say that correctly?” “Yes, ma’am.” “Everything all right?” “I believe so.” “All right then.” She never came back.
Zsa Zsa in the Ghetto
I had thought at first that one of the biggest problems needing attention was the cultural gap between African-Americans and their Caucasian or frequently foreign-born teachers who knew so little about black America. Increasingly I recognized that it was the kids themselves who knew so little. I looked into the idea of taking some to the House of Blues for a heritage tour. Miss Link, unfortunately, informed me that there were no funds available. The next week, I heard that she would be out all day on a field trip to Sunset Boulevard. Miss Link would be taking her students to the House of Blues. My students asked why I never took them anywhere.
A while later I learned that a new Shakespeare company had opened downtown L.A. which the district had contracted with. Tickets were available and transport could be easily arranged. I was thrilled by the emergence of a revitalized downtown. The success of any project in the area was not guaranteed as it was hard to get Westside audiences to come east. They’d come for basketball, but not for Shakespeare. The auditorium was packed that afternoon, over 800 screaming kids filled the place and never settled down. The house lights remained on and candy vendors hawked bags of Skittles and M&M’s. The show started and about 10 minutes in, the chaperoning adults abandoned the auditorium to have a smoke. There were no ushers. It didn’t take the kids long to find other uses for their bags of candy so in short order they began pelting the actors. As the actors batted away the flying objects, they recited their inaudible lines. The auditorium was a madhouse. This went on throughout the performance.
When we got back to the school, I placed a call to the executive producer, an English gentleman who seemed to listen patiently as I described the scene. Actually, he was bored. When I finished, he launched into a defense of the lack of supervision. “Who are we to decide how the audience should behave? The kids, as you call them, are meant to enjoy themselves.” “And what of those of us who couldn’t hear the play? Do we get our money back?” Nothing I said mattered to him. The place was booked. Word-of-mouth was irrelevant. He had his contracts with the city, so customer satisfaction meant nothing. “The M&M’s are a revenue source.” His position seemed to be that ghetto children couldn’t be expected to behave otherwise. But there was more. He defended what he called cultural populism, the right of the masses to ransack the citadels of privilege. He was as eloquent as he was condescending. I was a bug representing regressive values. He loved disorder. He seemed disappointed the kids hadn’t defecated on the floor. I tried to sort out his responses, which seemed to be: 1) “Why are you calling me?” 2) “My hands are tied.” and 3) “Aren’t you just a little teacher?”
When I needed cheering up, which was daily, I strolled over to Mr. Kelly’s room. He was a caustic fellow with a tire around his belly. He kept his silvery hair pulled back hard off his face, then tied it in a pig tail. Kelly was the type of guy who always wore hiking boots. He was one of those “preachers of doom” my favorite writer Saul Bellow warns against. What I liked about him was that he never sentimentalized his life or the lives of the children. Above his blackboard hung a six-foot long computer-generated banner on which appeared his classroom’s motto: YOU CAN’T MAKE ME. Kelly loved it. He gazed at it as we spoke. He especially enjoyed espousing its creed. What he enjoyed most was that his students had developed such a great appreciation of the power of refusal: “You’re not my father.”
It was in a sense philosophical. The kids might obey you, but if so they did it by choice. An undeniable, irrefutable point. Students had the power to say no. Coercion was not part of the equation as the students were quick to point out. No teacher had the right to tell anyone, least of all the students, what to do. They routinely refused to go to class, take their seats, do their lessons, bring their supplies, open their books, etc. Of course, I would be the first to admit to sharing Kelly’s cynicism; there was much to what he said. I came to think of it as the Zsa Zsa Gabor Syndrome.
Kelly, his philosophy, and my own teaching experience made their way through my mind as I read in the Los
Angeles Times a story about the by then long-retired film star, Zsa Zsa Gabor, who had had a run-in with a Beverly Hills police officer. She’s been pulled over while driving through town in her gorgeous white Rolls Royce. She had failed to stop at a signal so the police officer who stopped her threatened to write her a ticket which she refused to accept. She went further and refused to answer his questions, so the officer ordered her out of the car, at which point she slapped him across the face.
I instantly recognized this as a classic middle school moment, something that happens with frequency throughout the school district between students and teachers, students and security guards, and between students and administrators. All in the name of my colleague Kelly’s brilliantly worded catch phrase: YOU CAN’T MAKE ME. One couldn’t make the kids do anything, any more than that police officer could make Zsa Zsa get out of her car. Of course, that officer did in fact force her out of that car. Then, he cuffed her and dragged her off to the Beverly Hills police station. But, you see, that’s how confrontations always ended at M—— Middle School, too. Each little incident had to escalate to the point that sufficient will power was brought to bear. The helpless $80,000-a-year teacher might back down, but not the $12 per hour security guard. The nurse might throw up her hands, but not the coach, but, eventually, no matter what, these kids would meet their match. Finally, somebody would come along and say: OH, YES, I CAN. The shame was that that lesson had to be taught on a daily basis, and often to the same kids, over and over again.
And so it was when Lafayette came running into the room and slugged me in the face. I hadn’t been hit by anyone since I was a young teenager, so it came as quite a shock. I’d been sitting at the back of the class chatting with a few of the students. Sylvester was there. Amanda, maybe Latisha. We were relaxing at the long projects table before class when Lafayette came charging in. He was ecstatic, his face radiant with youthful joy. His tongue hung from his mouth, his arms swung wildly. He ran full force into my table and came barreling down it like a drunken cowboy in a saloon fight. He came whizzing by and as he did so, he clocked me upside the head with his protruding elbow. I lost my glasses which flew across the room as well as my composure. I stood up and showed real anger. Momentarily, the world stood still. Lafayette was paralyzed. He’d never seen me so angry, nor had I, as my words came from deep within and were frightening. I quickly pulled myself together. Lafayette and I shook hands and we both forgot about it.
Kindness confused some of the students, there is no doubt about it, but I saw no advantage in being hard or unapproachable. Part of it was race. I just didn’t know how to be firm with African-Americans. Would I be backed up? I didn’t know. Would the kids take it from me, a white man? Some wouldn’t. In the beginning I was hesitant to let my hair down. This is well-illustrated by my frequent exchanges with Lafayette, a boy whose skin glowed like a polished eggplant. He was agitated, restless. He rocked in his chair. His knees clapped. “Let’s go!” He sat at the edge of his ringside seat. “Come on, teacher. Let’s have it. Teach me something.” He was an eager-beaver, delightfully, obnoxiously inquisitive. But he was also easily distracted and, as a result, arrived late to class. “Are you going to come late every day?” I had given him some papers and a pencil which had fallen to the floor. He was too keyed up to notice. “Can’t you even pick them up?”
At this point I was ranting. Weeks of pent of frustration boiled over. My voice was so loud, so over the top that Lafayette drew back in his chair. Suddenly, words shot out of his mouth: “I DIDN’T KNOW YOU LOVED ME! WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO?” His words ricocheted off the walls. I’d prepared myself for “go fuck yourself,” but not for this. Lafayette believed that I had authority whereas others knew better. For one thing, Lafayette was big and very emotional. Sometimes he’d just clam up.
“You must have an opinion. What do you think? Is he guilty or innocent?”
We were talking about O.J. He didn’t reply.
“Have you been listening?”
“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” He wouldn’t look up.
“And? What else?”
“Lafayette, can’t you see I’m trying to get you to participate?”
“Can we all just get along?” He looked at me defiantly.
“What are you talking about?”
“I have a dream.”
“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last. We shall overcome. Can we all just get along? If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” His eyes were bugging out.
“That’s impressive. A good memory is a sign of intelligence. Who are we talking about? Martin Luther King? O.J.?”
“Why do I gotta care ’bout that nigga?”
“Ok, Lafayette, cool down.”
“Naw, man. You picking on me!”
“Picking on you?”
“You’re messing with our heads. I don’t care if he killed some white woman. I don’t care if he killed 100 white women. Whudda I care about some rich white bitch? Why I gotta care?”
“You don’t have to care personally.”
“My opinion don’t matter none. What’s it for anyway? Finish school, and get a job and all, who gonna care about what I think? First day, they go: ‘Shut up. Who asked you?'”
“Right!” Willy was getting into it.
“But now teacher be at you: ‘Let’s share, boys and girls. Who first?'” He was doing a pretty good imitation of me.
The students started laughing. Lafayette loved to mock me. I laughed, too.
“You supposed to ‘read between the lines.’ How you gonna read between the lines of 9 to 5? See what I am saying? You always talking about critical thinking. What you gonna criticize, huhn? Watch yourself get criticized out of a paycheck.”
The kids were hooting. Some laughed, some made laughing sounds just to increase the noise level. They were egging him on. Willy got up and was out of his seat.
“Please sit, Willy. We’ve already had the Pledge of Allegiance.” He sat.
“And it no racism neither. Everybody go into the meat grinder.”
“The ‘meat grinder’? Where’d you get that expressions, Lafayette? That doesn’t sound like you.”
“My brother.” It sounded like a dare. Like I was challenging him.
“You always be telling us stuff, but it don’t make no sense. You gots to think in school, but try it out there, you through. Imagination. Be messing around with that Big Mac recipe , you know, adding some mustard and shit, leaving out the secret sauce, Old Ronald’ll come out and stomp your imaginative ass.”
Charles cut in: “He’s right. It’s all bullshit.” He said this in his characteristic Donald Duck voice.
Lafayette was back to mocking me. “‘Share your feelings.’ ‘I want to hear your honest opinion.’ You start talking like that, they gonna figure you someone’s bitch, and your name Jill.”
The kids were hooting and hollering now.
“Let’s keep our voices down.”
“I’m serious. I’m serious.” Lafayette began to calm down.
“Life’s a shit sandwich.” These were Willy’s final words on the subject.
“That’s lovely imagery. Thank you, Willy.”
“Give me a Tootsie Roll.” He was back on his feet.
Instruments of Instruction
A few of these black women were militant critics of this crushing, really malignant softening sensibility that has become an American teaching orthodoxy. Mrs. Hughes, that is, Mrs. Symphony Hughes was vehemently opposed to this hands-off approach to education, this legalized sanitation of learning. She was all about passion. Like me, she saw teaching as a contact sport, as much in the classroom as on the field. We were coaches. Of course, she saw everything in racial terms, but no matter. We were in complete agreement. I was inspired by her rage. On the subject of corporal punishment, for example. Well, it had a lot to do with her status in the community. She was notorious in the ‘hood. She’d drag a kid right into Jordon Downs, the notorious projects in Watts.
She wasn’t afraid and everyone there either knew her or knew of her. She was a great advocate of neighborhood schooling; forget busing or any measures that took kids away from their families. She couldn’t care less about integration for its own sake. Equality, yes. But she had a 6-inch leather strap on her wrist and used it if she had to; she didn’t care what the white Principal or any other representative of the educational establishment had to say. That kid was going to mind her or else. She was more than happy to mix it up with an irate parent, but she wasn’t into fighting losing battles. No white guy in a pretty, pressed suit was going to tell her how to treat black kids. It was a matter of saving the culture. She saw getting the switch out as an expression of black pride.
We’d been having a number of drive-by shootings. Kids weren’t safe coming to school. You couldn’t hold them after school because they were only safe walking home in groups. Everyone ran for the exits at 3 on the dot. A delay could mean death, no joke. Part of this was caused by the kids wearing gang colors but when some of us proposed uniforms or a dress code, many of the newly appointed teachers denounced it as a form of Nazism. Some of them identified the wearing of uniforms with Hitler, never mind that children all over the world wear them. Mrs. Hughes spat in one of their faces.
This phenomenon of pent-up physicality was on display in our detention center. All sorts of kids were tossed out of class for everything from farting to pulling a knife on the teacher. It took me some time to get out there to meet the guy who ran the place, Mr. Curtis Parnell, 50-something, the nicest guy in the world. The center was housed in an abandoned greenhouse. You could see the kids were having a blast. There were flowers everywhere: daffodils galore. Each kid took control of a plot from design to first harvest. Each had a sketch in one hand and a shovel in the other. Dr. Rawls, the Principal, Curtis Parnell and I thought this was just wonderful. But Symphony Hughes didn’t approve. She was aflame with accusations of racism. She saw the restoration of the horticulture program as an attempt to reinstate slavery. She wanted those kids sitting in learning circles 24 hours a day, reading or discussing weighty tomes, like Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. She wanted them greenhouses burned down and any teacher with so much as a packet of pumpkin seeds shown the door. As far as she was concerned, Curtis Parnell was no better than Simon Legree. The fact that those kids would end up at the back of the room asleep at the wheel or slumped over their desks with sling shots was beside the point.
She was a handful all right, but she had integrity. Mrs. Hughes’d spell it for you. No smiles, no playing nicey-nice. The black kids were not going to pick cotton. She had clout and used it. Once she got going, no one would be left standing. So the Ag. Center was closed, Parnell was shit-canned, and the kids who couldn’t hack it were to be left on their own. I preferred her as a colleague to the dumb-it-all-down crowd. She had expectations. She had posters of Toni Morrison, Rita Dove and Maya Angelou on her walls. She kept drugstore paperback carousels fully stocked. Kids just helped themselves. We only went at it once, the time I was given responsibility for creating a display at the school’s entrance. I attempted to do a thing on classic American authors, such as Herman Melville, Henry James and William Faulkner. She caught me on the ladder putting up the display heading, “WHO SAID WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP?” She saw the posters. Then she began her campaign, her siege. I hadn’t been called a racist yet, but in the exchange, I caught her eye and saw a little twinkle. That said it all and it was enough for me. I could see that she was just pretending to be narrow-minded. “Yes, you have a point,” said I. “I’ll give it some more thought,” I muttered.
The new Principal was a tyrant all right and demanded respect, which in the ‘hood meant obedience. Diss her at your own peril. The whites, of course, ran for cover. No problem there. Each and every one was eager to grovel, but the black ladies had been in charge for years and didn’t know how to handle servitude. Her first stroke had been to order all personal property off the walls of the classrooms, all “paraphernalia,” as she called it, was to go. The rooms were to be readied for inspection. “Yes, Mrs. Hughes, that includes all postures, pictures, displays of any kind. I expect to see the school calendar and student work – with parental permission.” Symphony refused. But she was happy to pack up her instruments and go. She had been appalled by the new testing regime. She simply wasn’t interested. She resigned. I’m told she left with her chin up.
Something Better to Do
Willy’s grandmother used to drop in for a visit. Folks in the neighborhood were getting to know me. It was a small community. Basically, the entire school resided in two or three housing projects. Word got around. I didn’t speak much to Willy outside of class, but his grandmother would sit in the back not just to observe the way some parents did but to study. She wanted a lesson. She’d dropped out of school years back and preferred sitting in my classroom to staying at home and doing the ironing. She arrived in her house clothes. Hair in pink curlers, terry cloth bathrobe, and bunny rabbit slippers with a puffy white tail. I’d have died if my mother had come to school dressed like that, but Willy was cool with it. Her name was Ester or Le’ester, depending on the day. She knocked on the door, didn’t say much and then headed straight to the back of the room. Jesse got excited but she ignored him. After class, Willy would get up and join us at the front of the room. He said I was a great teacher and I rubbed my knuckles on the top of his head. Then he hugged his mom and I watched as she scurried back across the street. But she was back in five minutes. “Can I get me one of them books?”
“Huhn?” I was a little slow that day.
“I wanted to see that book,” she declared.
“Uh, I don’t know what you mean by see it.”
“I want to take it with me. Take it to my house.”
I was taken aback. “I won’t say no, but you know I’m supposed to keep them, you know, here on campus in my room, I guess. What exactly do you have in mind?”
“I want to read it. That book by Soltzzen-whatever. That guy you was talking about. I want to read the story.”
“Ok, all right. Yes. I want you to, I want you to read it. That’s great. I keep Willy’s copy here so he can’t say he forget it, but I have an extra. I have one right here. Why don’t you take this one?”
She took it without looking it over. “I’ll send it back with little Willy,” she promised.
“No, no, that’s not necessary. Keep it. Please. I’ll tell…uh, no, the kids are always losing them, even when I say not to take them, they do it anyway and lose them. I’ll say Zeus ate it.”
“That’s a joke. No, take it, really. I’m very happy you want to read it. Solzhenitsyn. Tell me what you think.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lohrey. I appreciate it.”
And off she went. She was a pleasant person, grateful, lonely. The whole thing made me feel good.
Sometimes I just couldn’t get Willy to sit down. That was my big problem that day. Normally, I would let it go. In a tug-of-war, the students nearly always won so I picked my fights very carefully. Willy was especially obstinate and I didn’t want him to go off the deep end that morning because I was expecting visitors. Some big shots from Sacramento were making the rounds and might pop in, joined by the Principal and some regional brass. I was afraid they’d come in and first thing see Willy doing a rain dance and wonder why I couldn’t hold his attention with my brilliant teaching. I’d been ignoring him and then I got the bright idea to ask him to use the top of the filing cabinet as a desk. The height was perfect. He could stand all day as far as I was concerned. He loved it, actually, and ended up using it all year. When the visitors showed, he looked right at home, writing up a storm, shooting off his mouth. He had loads of questions for them: “Hey, whatcha ya’ll want up in here?” and “Why don’t you fix that hole in the fence?” He was ready for them. One of the guys went over and read Willy’s paper. They got a kick out of him.
The little arrangement we had had worked throughout that year. Basically, he and I just wanted to be left alone. Basically, we got into a groove and nothing came between us, but one day he did something that earned my undying gratitude. He saved my life.
I had been bringing a bag of penny candies to the classroom and kept it locked away in the cabinet until rewards day when I offered Tootsie Rolls and such to my top students. Naturally, word got out; no doubt the kids told their friends and many who were not included felt left out. One day, after school, at about 3 p.m., a group of neighborhood toughs came to my classroom door demanding candy. There were about 12 boys, I’d say, 14-18 years of age, bored drop-outs and gangster wannabes looking for a hand-out and maybe a little trouble. I had stepped out of my door and was standing on the paved walkway leading to the car park. The boys surrounded me. One said, “give us some of that candy, motherfucker.” I was not at all ready for this sort of thing and had no idea how to respond. There was no one to call, nowhere to go really. The campus cleared out daily right after school precisely because of this sort of thing, but I had been a bit delayed. “There’s nothing left. I gave it all away. I’m sorry, but…,” I replied. “Shut up” was what I heard in response. I figured that a kid who could say that to a teacher could just about say or do anything. I realized now that I was in trouble, and began to wonder how the whole thing would end.
Just then little Willy showed up. He came over beside me. I don’t remember saying anything to him, nor do I remember exactly how I felt upon seeing him. Was he part of this? I didn’t know. Then I heard him say: “Get back in the room.” I hadn’t seen his mouth move at all, but I recognized his voice. I followed his advice and closed the door behind me. We had no cell phones in those days and the classroom had no phone. I stayed in the darkened room for about 30 minutes, just standing there with my briefcase in my hand. I was afraid to reopen the door, but when I did the coast was clear and I went quickly to my car and drove away, out beyond the eight feet high fence that surrounded the school grounds, down past the seedy housing project where Willy and his friends lived. When I stopped at the red light, I lay my head on the steering wheel. Eventually, I proceeded onto the highway that ran west and continued driving in that direction for a while.
A better man would have called it quits, but I was locked in, one of those terrible teachers they’re always talking about who work for a paycheck. I couldn’t afford to do it out of love alone. Few of us could. When I pulled up that morning, I hoped to be greeted by a brass band and pom-pom carrying cheerleaders, but wasn’t too surprised to see the same old cast of characters. Nobody knew about my candy ordeal and I wasn’t eager to tell anyone. I headed first for the main office, signed in, and continued on to class.
About the writer:
David Lohrey grew up in Memphis. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley. His plays have appeared throughout Europe, most recently in Croatia and Estonia. Sperm Counts opened this year in Hyderabad, India, translated by Jay Jha. His plays are available online at Proplay (CA). His poetry can be found internationally in Softblow (Shanghai), Cecile’s Writers’ Magazine (The Hague) and Otoliths (Australia), and elsewhere. In the US, recent poems have appeared in Apogee, Abstract Magazine and Poetry Circle. Several have been anthologized by the University of Alabama (Dewpoint), Illinois State University (Obsidian) and Michigan State University (The Offbeat). His fiction can be read at Dodging the Rain, Crack the Spine, and Literally Stories. His study of 20th century literature, ‘The Other Is Oneself‘, was published last year in Germany. Machiavelli’s Backyard, David’s first collection of poetry, appeared in August 2017. David is a member of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective. He lives in Tokyo.
Image: “What is This Thing Called Love” from the Homewrecked Series by Carol Heifetz Neiman. Color xerox and prismacolor. Ms. Neiman was a Los Angeles-based feminist artist of the 1970’s and 1980’s.