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.

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS

The room is awash
in words, they pile up
in corners, form untidy stacks
that perpetually threaten collapse,
strewing consonants like shards
of ill broken glass.
It might not be this way, for
words need order, a rubric
in which they are forced to operate.
But here, in a room of poets,
anarchy is the sole grammar,
and in the face of order
someone throws a Molotov cocktail
as we are all consumed
in the flame of self passion.

EARLY ARRIVAL

Autumn came on hard today
the drop in temperature not
unexpected in these climes, but still
unwanted, forcing the closing of windows.
Still, as the afternoon faded, I shouted
toward the window a reminder
not to go gently into night to fight
the soon approaching dark.
The squirrel on the lawn outside
the window stood, forepaws held
together as if deep in prayer and stared
back at me, seemingly incredulous,
so I loudly repeated my entreaty.
He shook both head and tail, then said,
“For God’s sake man, if you want
to be the next Dylan Thomas have
several more drinks, and please
next time try and get the lines right!”
He turned and headed up the old maple.

UNDER THE WEIGHT

My shelves grow heavy
with volumes of words
I wish I had written, neatly
bound up in books
that stare at me, at once
bidding me welcome
and challenging me to enter.
One shelf is set aside
for books of pages,
blank, on which I have written
each day now for three
and a half years, words
I did write which, on rereading,
I often wish I hadn’t.
I could write in pencil
erase later in the face of regret,
but the pen seals failure
and, I am sure, helps build
character, which I have in excess

TO ALLEN

Tell me more about death, I said
put it into words, that’s
your specialty so open your mouth
from amid your black jungle of a beard
now white, I want a noise, a howl.
Why the hell do I hear only silence,
I know it’s the sound
of one hand clapping,
but I demand more than a mere koan
Corso would at least bathe me in gasoline
but you, who wrote to be immortal
so why, now, only old words?
So I can complete the circle?
But they hit the floor like
so may peanut shells
washed by the spilt beer.
Come on, say something
even a simple kaddish
for your silence is killing me.

WORDS

“Suppose,” he says
“words may be used
only once, after that
they disappear.”
“You mean in a poem”
she replies, “or life itself?”
Even four stanzas
can challenge most
except perhaps Basho.
Haiku would replace sonnets,
villanelles, sestinas
suddenly gone,
anaphora is self-contradiction.
“Imagine,” the young girl mused
“sloganless politicians,
talking heads struck mute,
hushed generals
fighting silent wars,
all poets condemned
to write blank verse.”

AN INKLING

Writing is an art form
that very many never see
but the unseeing of the work
is what elevates it to art.
This is what you often hear
from the unpublished, or even
from the denizens of small
press purgatory, the one
the Vatican will never acknowledge,
for the poets corner of heaven
is so deeply hidden away.
The words on the page
know better, they see the beauty
as they tumble from the pen,
and need no confirmation.