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.

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There will come a time in the not distant future when words will be rendered unnecessary, when thought will be freely transmissible, when distance will become a lost dimension. That day will be one of mourning, much as we mourned the death of the Underwood Champion, joined in death with the Royal Standard and a Smith Corona, and cursed IBM and Microsoft. And yet we poets will carry on, for we have always written because we have no other marketable skill.


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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.

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.

FALLING IN LOVE, WALES

I

I fell deeply in love with her, I
standing in a small jewelers shop
in Bangor Wales on a November morning.
In truth, cradling a small silver
Celtic cross in my hands
I knew then that I,
taken that plunge
within moments of our meeting
and recognition was all that remained.
II

We poets stood around the kitchen
slicing vegetables and words,
laughing at everything and nothing
and occasionally peering out
the small back window
across the yard onto the now
no longer distant sea.
III

In the sofa in the library
I wrote words that seemed
almost alien to my hand,
pulled by her smile, now
3,300 miles distant, under
the watchful eye
of the large orange tabby
whose gentle claw edited
my hyperbole.
IV

We wrote haiku
walking the ramparts
of Castell Cricieth
on a dank chill morning,
staring down jealously
at the tea house
in the village below.
V

Lumsden drove out
from London to do a reading,
opted to stay on
a day, laughing as we,
in turn, drew the knives
across the whetsone
prepared the food for

the impatient, smiling cook
and the wine flowed
into the evening meal.
VI

Down by the Afon Dwyfer,
at the end of the path
to his old house,
Sir David listened
from beneath his headstone
and had no arguments
to dissuade me.

VII

On the train back
to Manchester I searched
for the words to tell her
how I felt.
Picking up the phone
words failed me
but she heard my heart
through the silence.