A violin is curved wood and four strings. It needs a person to make noise, an artist to make music, love to sing. Just like us.
Sacred Space — Arrival The wrinkled woman resting in the doorway hustles aside, her bones twitching hard: “I'm sorry, Sir,” as I pull my bag into the Inn on Folsom Street1. ⥨ Exposed brick walls try hard in my suddenly empty room. Industrial. Rough-Masculine. I don’t...feel anything. I thought I’d feel something. No ghosts. Nothing. ⥨ I know the old fairies flew south years ago. No place for the Auden-faced. And the demons? Those super-charged leather dangers stalking prey in red steam? Now they cam2 from rented rooms in Sacramento and San Diego, their hunting names changed from Steve to Chase, TwinkChase3, ever-so-sweet-and- special Chase. I don't know what to pray for or to, not in this abandoned church. ⥨ Walking While Thinking — SoMa4 What if the usurpers, the influencers paying $1.9 million for a pissed piece of SoMa, are just waiting for us to die? What if these squatters, these supplanters, are the Old City’s fevered urge, lusting after land and Better Homes-ness, trading-in sweaty stories for a kid in an UPPAbaby5, the ultimate accessories? Makes sense as senses now scent safety, porning lean clean high-pitched action-figures in Lower Castro6. Everyone’s lost their balls. ⥨ Pause — Phone Call Home “Mike called,” says the man on the phone. My boyfriend. Back in LA. “What’d he want?” “Know where you were.” “What’d you say?” “Up in San Francisco. Probably getting disillusioned.” That’s why we’re at 20 years. More or less. ⥨ Exhibit — Dolores Park7 Cafe. Conversation, overheard while eating expensive steel-cut oatmeal. “And so he's interested in you finding a tenant for your property.” “Yeah, and we have so much in common!” Outside, those who can only afford the sidewalk are no-shows to the convention of web-developers and Mommy-n-Me in Lululemon8. I’m a haunted old spirit: “The best never survive.” ⥨ Walking Richmond9, after searching GG Park10 for Signs of Life. They all have money, or They have all the money. Houses high atop garage doors painted in expected candy-shop pastels. Millions couldn't buy in. But it's also an attitude; they fit. This kaleidoscopic nursery is their world. I like the sidewalk now; it’s original, the hard-marked past, bones of my city, cast when these houses were just houses, you could hear shouting because people shouted back before dot.coms and Grindr11, when bandanas12 spoke not conclusively, you had to look a guy in the eyes and the park was full of risk and joy. My world: on that older hill, the one covered in open-faced beauty and daring, weathered desire. Somewhere. Or sometime? ⥨ Processing — SFO13 A cocoon of security. We pay to pretend. You can’t pretend in bus stations. But here, I wonder with beating breathing heart: What would I do if I was asked for spare change at the United ticket counter? If I wanted a cigarette? If someone stood up and said preferred pronouns are simply an expansion of binary imprisonment? If an out-loud not-texted internet-free political need happened? Their aggrieved-teenager answer: “Is it so wrong to live unencumbered? Does everything real have to be uncomfortable?” It’s easy to get turned around by children. Now I miss their sandcastles, the peaceful playset neighborhood. Nobody who doesn’t belong wanders by. It’s nice. Just like an airport. It’s all that’s left. ⥨ Reflection — Flying, looking back San Francisco: where dreams and memory lay buried. Only ruins survive; fate has fashioned them weapons hope can’t overcome: marriage bourgeois magazines health money a future an attitude clean pecs success. But still... I look back as the plane banks for SoCal, for LA and my old boyfriend who will greet me outside third-world LAX14 and drive the stained and broken 40515 home, where books and vacuuming wait; and I see my once-home fading into a sunsetted Ocean that touches every time I’ve cared about, waiting, just waiting, and I find myself praying: Maybe you will be broken again, so like me when you led my strange and halting body through cracked unwanted lovely streets to flowers and eucalyptus, pro-offered grass in sheltered shadow and men became yours, cool-touching breeze, wounded naked-love in pine-fragranced gasping way-too-crowded dirty Heaven… I miss you. Shake off this juvenile dream. Please, God, let us be in love again.
Notes: 1 past and (somewhat) current location of San Francisco’s gay leather community 2 interactive filming of oneself engaged in sexual/intimate acts, either alone or with others, for a live internet audience, in exchange for money and/or tokens 3 unblemished young adult male, typically between the ages of 18-20, who utilizes his perceived innocence or actual lack of sexual experience in the pursuit of (generally) older adult males/“daddies” 4 South of Market; historically, the economically disadvantaged/“seedy” section of San Francisco 5 high-end baby stroller; average cost: $850 6 once known as GayMecca, the center of San Francisco’s Gay Liberation Movement of the mid-1970s 7 somewhat successful example of urban revitalization/renewal; once known as DrugPatch Park 8 high-end workout wear favored by teen girls and their mothers 9 neighborhood/district in the northwest corner of San Francisco, just north of Golden Gate Park 10 Golden Gate Park; known for its Victorian-styled Conservatory of Flowers and lengthy wooded trails; iconic location for public sexual activity 11 dating application designed to identify and communicate with potential gay male sex partners; lists inclinations and availability, as well as possible locations for sexual activity (host, travel, public, etc.) 12 heavy handkerchief positioned in the back pocket of gay males to communicate sexual inclination; historically, the color and side of placement indicated sexual appetite (eg: hunter-green in right-hand pocket = looking for a “daddy”). No conclusive guide existed/ exists for the placement/meaning of the bandana. 13 San Francisco International Airport 14 Los Angeles International Airport 15 also known as the San Diego Freeway; largest connector between the West Side of Los Angeles- proper and the populous San Fernando Valley
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When I am dead, growing in the ground — assuming the world goes on, assuming they don’t end the world after I’m 80 (or, given my family history, 67) — I want to be: a multiple-choice test option. Think about it! That’s the way to make it. That’s the way to know you matter. Who wouldn’t want to be Archduke Ferdinand? Sure, he’s dead, and sure, his death was…painful. But he is the answer to an important question: “Whose assassination caused the first World War?” He is remembered! The test question, then — that’s important, isn’t it? They say if you don’t ask the right question, you won’t get the right answer. So: “Who is the greatest poet of their age?” That was easy! It just came to me. It’s the way I want to be remembered: not a, but the poet — a poet who moved women to riot and men to tears; who showed desire is way better than thought; the one who gets quoted at weddings and funerals, chiseled on tombstones, printed on birth announcements. The one who freed Literature from the puzzle-makers and the puzzlers. Nobody’s done that yet. Nobody! I’ll be unique! Okay. Calm down. This is the way to go. Take it slow. (I feel so much better now, knowing what I want.) Next...the other test options are important, aren’t they — almost more important than the question. Who do I want surrounding me? Who will share my stage? Another conundrum! So let’s try: A) Sappho B) William Shakespeare C) Walt Whitman D) Greg Beckman That was easy, too. I am good at this! They’ll all select (D), of course — but only after much deliberation. I want them to think, search their souls, argue. You can’t just give silly options, answers easily dismissed like Dylan Thomas or Mitsuhashi Takajo, whose haiku softly hold my whispering heart home, but who Americans confuse with a car; or Thom Gunn, who taught me how to speak honesty but is a cricket-chirp in Catholic schools (that homosexual thing); or Lorraine Hansberry — God! Are they all gay? — the much-taught playwright, right, who didn’t write a stitch of searing raw-nerve I-can’t-get-rid-of-this-thing poetry, right? No. Those options are quickly crossed out. I won’t be a default. I want students to sit at hard-carved desks confounded among the known greats, those who have risen, acceptable contenders — and choose me. Why? Because everybody knows history only enshrines the greats, and that to be remembered — to be studied! — by legions of caring, sensitive schoolchildren and objective, contemplative teachers of story will delight my crusting corpse.
There are more poems. After this romp, I’d try something here.
Or maybe a story….here.
He lives in my garden; only I have the key. There is no gate, no lock to un-lock like those posh private parks, just a tree and some grass, balloons from a story and maybe an old bottle of wine we bag before law comes spinning around, on the hunt for happiness. Over there is our first kiss on the stone pier they said Cortés built, stretching out into a tequila moon; and where that old lady sits, remembering or forgetting: a flight to somewhere, one screen lit in the dark, yours, watching the same movie, three times. He is my garden; only I have the key. No sock-puppet politician or fisting Missouri FratBoy can trespass our grass, mock our tree, pull down those balloons. He is my garden, eternally lost except to me, safe like drunk wine and watched movies, invisible to those who don’t speak love, far from parched howls and Christians, close as breath.
*Dedicated to Josh Hawley, who thought his own hand was up in the air as he declared war.
More? Try these.
Or maybe you’d like a book? See these.
I am a poet which means I stand in the shower and think the water is too hot and shift the faucet-thing to the right only to be blasted by cold reality into a sniveling shriveling carapace shouting silent expletives that crash cheap tile with all the force of metaphor.
No sugar in the tea. It's today's enemy (like cigarettes and nostalgia and eggs). So what? Now I get to outlive joy?
More poems here. (Some are not fun, but maybe you’re in the mood?)
And yes, there are stories. But they are not fun. They are real.
Back by trees that stand into sky, green against blue or grey to steel snow, she watches yellow grain move to and fro, audience to a calm horizon and her heart. She hears wisps of boots brushing stalks until both are silent, resting just behind. They sway with the field. “You ready?” She holds the grove, the shade, the cross, grave, then heads to the house, husband close behind until she reaches back her hand to find his waiting and they wander their way home.
More of the same? See Honor and Other Virtues here.
My style after a bit of poetry? A story. Find them here.
He’d be dead in three months. Bob. The big guy came walking up the driveway, eyes fixed on the lawn. Dad was watering. Same jeans he had in the 70s. Same brown flip-flops. He didn’t stop moving the hose back and forth. I stood watching. “Listen, we gotta talk. Bury this thing.” It’s what everyone wanted. The whole block. Just make up, some said. He didn’t mean it, others said. He said he was sorry. I just wanted them to be friends again. But I knew my dad. “Mom, you gotta talk to him.” She pointed to the ring not on her finger. She shook her head. She went back to her coffee. She knew him too. “Go home, Bob.” That’s all dad said. Bob looked at me, then back at the lawn. “I said I was...You know what? Fuck it.” He walked away. Home. Dad coiled up the hose. “He talks too much.” When Bob was dead, his wife waved me over, drunk on her porch. “I’m sorry,” she slurred. “Bob never should’a said those things.” She reached for my hand. “Honey, it was just a joke.” Her pinkie went up. “Honey, he didn’t care about that stuff.” She rubbed my hand. I shifted away. I left. Dad was on the porch, standing. I went into the house. He followed. “You want to go get some new brake pads for your car?”
More poetry. Always, more poetry here.
And stories, for people that want to lose themselves for a bit. Here.
Pizza Port, Morro Bay, California It was quiet until it wasn’t. But waiting for pizza is hard on kids. I wasn’t surprised when the little girl started to cry. Her brothers drank their Cokes. Mom looked at Dad. It’s your turn, her eyes said, twinkling. She watched the game on the television. Dad picked up the crying girl, following the game until she sat on his leg and leaned in: “I miss Lolly” before resting on his flanneled chest. It looked soft. His hand covered her back. He whispered: “I miss her too.” “Can I get a new one?” He was all hers. “We’ll see.” Pizza came. No grace but grace. Mom wiping her boys’ mouths, Dad pointing out uniform colors on the TV, on his forearm one tattoo, his smile large, kids fed, old truck outside, no room but room, family, peace.
And then some stories here.
My grandma stood outside the door to the garage. The cord went through the crack. I wouldn’t hear what she was saying. The drier spun to her voice. “Get away from the door,” my grandpa said. “I want to hear what grandma’s talking about. I think it’s me.” Grandpa’s eyes changed. He took out a deck of cards from the drawer. “Wanna play 21?” He set the cards on the kitchen table. When she finally came in, I was concentrating on my Ace. One or eleven. Her hands surprised me. They were on my shoulders. “Eleven. See?” She pointed to the eight. I looked back and up. Her hair was lit from the ceiling. She was my grandma. I decided right then: she was my grandma.
More poetry here.
Or maybe a story? Here.
It begins. It ends. The story goes on. Footsteps on the ceiling, toilet flush, water rinse, softer not-fast feet take time now that the rush is over, there’s room for words and maybe a laugh (he never laughs, but they do). A crunch. Munchy-crunchy. Fun. He must have it — women in a steady stream says stud, right? They spend the night once or twice, seem sated, smile in the elevator next-day. He must have it. Yes. But the story has another side, an aside, something in the margin: the crashing lasts but a paragraph, sometimes two if the writer is good, mark the start and mark the finish and then the toilet and the water and the softer feet another paragraph another night another woman smashing the headboard into sentences that end all too soon measuring exposition and completion line-by-line as that steady stream is suddenly understood.
(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)
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