California Modern by Steve Wittkoff

Late afternoon beach light
Bronze, bronze, bronze North and Central American flesh
On Disney beach towels
Eastern European, Korean, Sri Lankan and Japanese flesh
On Disney beach towels
Bronze, bronze, bronze, even if it’s a spray
Surfboard in a photoshoot that a gray haired man watches
He has an admiring smile on skin he’s happy is bronze, leeching melanoma
The sun he loves is gonna kill him
Like his three ex-wives
And the son he loves
An Eames armchair in a place nearby
Candy label ball of tangerine sun reflects off the sliding glass
A man looks at it wondering how its beauty compliments his sadness
Eastern European flesh clucks from inside “baby you got any more weed?”
He does but shakes his head vigorously
He wants her to leave
An ex-wife’s view of the moon is fractured
A spill of milk on the barn door table
In the kitchen of a home
Designed by an apprentice of Richard Neutra
On a slice of Mulholland dirt
Featured in Architectural Digest eleven years ago
She sniffs cognac, wondering if it’s gone bad
A coyote’s jowls snap the neck of a dehydrated squirrel
She listens to its howls in the architecture dotted canyon
The morning hums with traffic
The ex-wife hears it, even from the canyons
She runs her hand over the rough-hewn wood of the barn door table
Pleased that it’s hers
The gray haired man, her ex-husband, hears the traffic too
Surf is rough
Grabs his battered board and runs for it in his torn wet-suit
Only one other surfer out at that hour
A real pro, the old man admires
The old man is shaky getting his footing
On the curve of a wave gaining muscle
Could be his last ride
Or could just bang him up bad
Either way he rides it with a smile
Photo by Jess Vide on

About the Poet:

Steve Wittkoff grew up outside of Chicago and attended Northern Illinois University where he graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Journalism and a B.S. in Marketing.  Shortly thereafter he began a career in advertising in Chicago.  However, an English professor at N.I.U. advised him to keep writing fiction, no matter what career path he followed. 

A long distance relationship led to love and a large Buick transporting him from Chicago to Connecticut, where he moved in with his partner, Bill.  After settling in, he quickly picked up an Account Management and Strategic Planning advertising career in New York, which lasted more than 25 years and led to being a Vice President at Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising.  But he also followed the advice of that professor, and kept writing fiction and poetry.

He has been a long time participant of Dr. Louise Stanek’s New York and Maine writing workshops for novelists, and his short story Laguna has been published on the literary web ‘zine  He’s also published several nonfiction feature articles in Connecticut Magazine and has taken on freelance editing assignments for them as well.

He retired early from advertising to focus on writing.  He’s most passionate writing literary fiction that explores existential issues and the delicate complexities of human relationships, particularly among queer people, but also among people of all backgrounds.  Some of his favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, John Irving, Elizabeth Strout, Joyce Carol Oates, and Michael Cunningham. 

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