(in memory of Joseph Grassi)

Castle Rock

High above the town of Saratoga, California,
up winding Route 9, turn south at the Skyline
crest, you’ll come to Castle Rock State park,

where my husband Joe hiked for many years.
Once upon a time we went to what he called:
his “sacred place.” The last summery warmth

of the woods was retreating. Coolness was settling
in, since the sun was tilting south towards Mexico
these last weeks. Around a bend in the road

kids were playing hide & go seek. Rock-climbing
groups galore scaling several cliffs. Countless
trees losing leaves. Dirt and debris scattered by

unseen creatures burrowing in the brambles.
High above squirrels leaping in branches, carrying
cachets of seeds and nuts for hiding. Familiar with

the trail’s twists and turns, Joe led me to the side
of a trickling waterfall: “By December it’ll be
thriving!” Higher we went along a curving

path leading to ledge-like portico for a large
cave. “Sacred as a chapel,” said this former
priest. Animal drawings, hieroglyphics,

a sketch portraying a phoenix feeding her
young from her heart. A pair of doves calling
in the dark. Light shafts swirling. Tiny drips

of moisture into a small well. Shards forming
a nook resembling a tabernacle. Golden red maple
leaves by the entrance spun miniature rose

mandalas over our shoulders. A faint scent
of incense, crushed sage by our feet. At the back
a rectangular stone resembling an altar. Beeswax

stains on the four corners. An aire of perpetual
presences. Did we pray aloud, swaying beside
redwoods as if in a Sufi dance facing the blue

Pacific! Back at the car, darkness was dawning.
Moonrise over San Jose’s Mount Hamilton,
Silicon Valley lighting up Santa Clara, Los Gatos,

Campbell, Cupertino, Saratoga. Winter rains round
the corner. Perhaps an early spring filling the forests
with fresh flora and fauna, recurring revelations

of hope after the light’s been low and loss,
crushing. It’s then I’ll take the trail he taught me,
to that threshold ledge before my beloved’s sacred site.

At the Peak

Images from



As Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth, “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” —Matthew 9: 9-13

The Calling of St Matthew…Painting by Caravaggio, 1600Christ Calling Mathew

Before becoming Pope Francis, as a cardinal he always prayed at Caravaggio’s
altar of “Christ calling Matthew” when he arrived in Rome from Argentina.

In all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) there is the story of Christ calling Matthew, followed by his attending a banquet, with a crowd of tax collectors and other. Regarding that event the Pharisees complained:”Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners’?” Christ replied: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (from Wikipedia)


(For: Father Roy Bourgeois M.M.and in memory of Rosalie Rienzo M.M.



To Risk photos

Elsberg * Le Carré * Snowden * Poitras * Greenwald * Manning


Heading-grocery Homeless-Grocery Store

Homeless in CafeNCal Cafe

red chairs cafe poem



with thanks to Thomas Matus OSB Cam

Incarnation M

There is nothing which exists separate from Me,
 Arjuna. The entire universe is suspended
From Me as my necklace of jewels.
—Krishna to Arjuna “The Bhagavad Gita


[First First published on,
an online publication of Caesura, Poetry Center San José‘s literary magazine.]


WP Lake Ronkonkama


Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 12.24.13 AM



Lifting its heart to the sky, the sea sighs. Light
collides with darkness. Gondoliers are serenading
tourists: O Sole Mio. Through a tiny window of

the covered bridge a last look at freedom. Narrow
corridors and stark cells. Trap doors concealing
the Inquisitional Hall. Who tightened the chains?

Who betrayed whom? Who defended the accused?
Who offered comfort? Who visited the imprisoned?
Thunder cracks lightning’s whip forcing confessions

from the brave and timid alike. Rain is pouring
through gargoyles’ grimaces. Secret trials. Guilt’s
a far-gone conclusion. Texas prisons overflow,

so do jails in progressive California. Consider:
The New Jim Crow (by Michelle Robinson). Forget
about job-training, rehabilitation “You’re on your own!

Alcatraz glows through fog in San Francisco Bay.
Once a prison, now a popular tourist destination
(similarly the Dodge’s Palace). Driving north across

Golden Gate Bridge, exiting freeway 101, you’ll
discover San Quentin’s purgatorial fires turning into hell:
Three strikes and you’re out!” Death-row inmates

enduring a slow-going torture. Who knows how many
lives were destroyed by The Inquisition? What forms
of oppression exist in our country, our communities,

our work-places, our churches? Do insiders in all walks
of life decide the fate of outsiders? Are you, or someone
you know, homeless, sick, unemployed, underserved,

living alone? Beware if you’re a dark skinned male
subject to police searches, or if you are an immigrant,
who looks Hispanic. Deportation without a hearing

is common. And consider Amnesty International,
the Red Cross and Red Crescent denouncing our
Guantanamo prison. Bolts of lightning break through

clouds, shattering preconceived ideas of justice and
compassion. Articles of torture clearly on display–
manacles, the rack, spikes, chains. Frightful feats

happened here. Who believes we Americans are
innocents abroad? We see little, hear little, speak
little of what’s done in our name. Drones, counter-

insurgency attacks, collateral damage. Inmates are
shipped across the U.S. to Texas prisons, rarely close
enough for family visits. Yet the boasting TV blares:

We’re the best country ever on earth! Such a sense of
history! Such hubris! Oy Vey! as we say in Brooklyn.
Why not funnel reparations to the descendants of slaves?

Why keep funding our endless wars abroad and the dreadful
domestic drug war? We’re crossing the Bridge of Sighs,
O Sole Mio echoes in cells, so does San Marco’s Te Deum.

From: “Heart and Soul”—Poems by Carolyn Grassi
Patmos Press SF 2014





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"Carolyn Grassi's 'Heart and Soul' is fascinating in its fluent and affecting blend of memoir and poetry, reminiscence and sheer invention, loss, grief and homage. Adopting a persona at times, or imitating a seminal influence on her writing at other junctures, [Carolyn Grassi] has created a quilt of memories and reflections on a life's education—the journey we all hope to make from becoming to being, or from acting as disciples to representing ourselves and our art as apostles..."
Read the complete foreword by Ron Hansen in 'Heart and Soul' published by Patmos Press, San Francisco, CA.

Ron Hansen, author



Carolyn Grassi

Ron Hansen and Jim Torrens

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D

Lit Prof at SCU