CITY LIGHTS

It was a Tuesday in October
or a Wednesday in March,
hard to say which, but evening.
We had taken a cab from the Hyatt
Embarcadero or the Fairmont,
it didn’t much matter,
and sat in the Chinese restaurant
on the edge of Chinatown, or
a pasta and seafood joint
in North Beach, and you said
it was a small earthquake, while I
was certain it was the waiter
who drained the half empty
wine glasses en route to the kitchen.
We walked slowly along the street
past the “World Famous Condor”
in all its tacky glory, and I said
it was the birthplace of silicon,
we had Carol Doda to thank for that
and you said I was perverted
and suggested we go across the street
to the club featuring nude dancers,
but I balked when I saw they were men.
Finally we compromised and walked
around the corner to the City Lights.
You wandered impatiently around
while I stood transfixed
in the poetry section, a warren
of shelves, a ladder on wheels
and corners, and held, almost fondled
a fresh copy of Coney Island of the Mind.
I read it slowly, a man stood
behind me shifting his weight
from foot to foot, “It’s not all that good,
adequate, but there’s Bukowski and Ginsberg.”
Without looking back, I reached for Gasoline.
“At least that’s a good choice,” he said
and in growing anger I turned
and sneered into the nose
of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.


First Published in Creative Juices, December 1998.

NOUS SOMMES ICI

The question, of course, is which
is Frankenstein, which his monster
a chicken and egg problem
that invites debate, denies solution.
They say, of course, it is you –
We sent you Lafayette, never assuming
quelle catastrophe would grow from our gift.
Freedom doesn’t make you a God
but somehow you never learned that
too busy writing rules for the rest of us to ignore.
Quite to the contrary, we say,
we sacrifice mightily to redeem you,
buried our own dreams to build
a foundation for yours, twice, and you
repay us not with the gratitude
we so deeply deserve from you,
but with derision, and that, only
if you are feeling beneficent. You are
the epitome of arrogance we each say
and we know that it is the glue that binds us.

SLOW STREAM

The river that I imagined,
a torrent of words and images
is little more than a dry trickle,
construction cranes along one shore
hauling away half- and ill-formed thoughts,
leaving only desire and frustration
as a marker of what might have been.
I looked at each bend, hidden from sight
as harboring that epiphany
that I promised myself, and not
further evidence of my own delusion.
We will make port this afternoon
Where I can, at last, offload
my frustration and these shards
of a fantasy now gone to dust.

ROAD FOOD

In Hawaii I could stare for hours at a Taro field,
the bent back of a farmer, and the same a gentle fold
of spine I saw from the Shinkansen, Tokyo to Osaka
amid the fields of yellow shoots, later rice in
some bowl, perhaps even mine, or in Antwerp as the chef
patiently picked over the trays of mussels in the market
knowing just which would suit his needs, all having
a remarkable sameness to my eye and nose.
On a road just outside San Juan, near the beach
with surfable waves, the woman stood bent in the heat
over a 50 gallon drum turn stove, cooking the pork
tucking it into the dough and placing it in the fryer,
smiling through her few remaining teeth, offering pies
that we dared not resist, knowing the sea
would soon enough be our napkin.
This morning, as I took my slow walk
to the coffee shop, a jay sitting on a resting fence
stared at me for a bit, not unnerving,
persistent, and I imagine him the king
of Taro, rice and fresh pies.

NICE JOB

It is stall after stall
of tomates de Provence, choux
wishing to be kale, peches, small
and barely containing their juice.
Courgettes beckon, pommes de terre
call out their aerieal cousins, haricots
quietly suggest a citron aussi.
Walking along the boulevard
a tourist obviously,
without bags or cart,
I get polite nods that say
me ignoring you isn’t personal
it’s merely financial, pardonnez-moi.
Tonight in my dreams, I will
with flash of Wusthoff, be in my kitchen
pulling my morning’s purchases from my bag,
the meal coming together before me,
to the amazement of my wife and friends.
“It’s nothing,” I will say, “juste le matin
dans la marché de Nice,
pour vous, simplement.

ANTWERP

It is seven in the morning
Antwerp arises slowing in winter
the small bar along seldom
used quays of Schelde
is almost empty, one old man
tottering on his stool
swaying to breath
head pressed on the counter.
Young couple, she brown haired
pale white skin against white
sweater, he long blond
woven into a ponytail
draped over the faded
denim jacket.
Her fingers
entwined in his, they stared
now, again sipping , she
Stella Artois, he Duvel.
He would paint,
when there was light
and when not, his fingers
would play across her belly
her breasts and mons
as they had in darkness
slowly receding, touching
canvas mind filling
with images cast in oils,
she would cast words
as ancient runes, telling
of times gone, to come,
and in night he would rise
into her, interlocked
sweat running across
his chest, pooling
in his navel.
She touched
his lips, sucked her finger
and put match
to cigarette, drawing
deeply of the morning
carried on river breezes.


First Appeared in Coffee and Chicory, Vol. 5, 1997.