They laughed and hollered and hooted
wet with fog and chop-surge-crash
waves bigger than a man,
danced and drank the complete sea,
preferred words to water-speak,
whiskey to land that’s sand,
dirt and dumb air
beautiful against their fire —
hard poets and mechanics and
packed up, home with life,
leaving slight and then no
footprints for followers
who hold tickets for the show
and wait for something to happen.
Did she not wish everybody merely to be themselves?”
— Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
They no longer colonize with ships.
No armies arrive on my shore,
war-boots in sea-water until they
sink into wet sand and subdue.
Too costly. And then you have to
leave a force to force compliance...
they whisper, those enlightened
who yet carry the burden of rectitude.
A word, a phrase
spoken through the air,
taken in —
and I’m lost.
They no longer act;
they just wait until I
bow my head
beat my breast
from gods curiously unprepared
Honestyinthemoment. The sketch that contains the impulse. The impulse that says YOUAREBEAUTIFUL when he’s standing next to you intheelevator, looking at his phone until he’s not looking at his phone, and all Life waits on someonetolivenotwatch him return your urge with a smileorsmirk that says thankyoufuckoff.
Not choreographed. Rehearsed. Planned. Theater.
Real. Dangerous. You.
The spirityouwant being the spirityouare — to speak without speeching, to love without loving. No -ings. Only act, no neuteredgerunds, until you homeyourself, and the lifeyouare finds itself standing next to another life, sexy and real because you said “You’re beautiful” without try-ing, without plan-ing.
Sacred Space — Arrival
The wrinkled woman
resting in the doorway
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.
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,
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
What if these squatters,
are the Old City’s fevered urge,
lusting after land and
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.
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
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.
Processing — SFO13
A cocoon of security. We pay
You can’t pretend in
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
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
Only ruins survive;
fate has fashioned them weapons
hope can’t overcome:
marriage bourgeois magazines health
money a future an attitude
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,
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
I miss you.
Shake off this juvenile dream.
Please, God, let us be in love again.
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
7 somewhat successful example of urban
revitalization/renewal; once known as DrugPatch
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
Just in case this wasn’t enough poetry for you, click here.
And yeah, there are books. (Click there, on “Books”)
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
“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
“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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
into a sniveling shriveling carapace
shouting silent expletives that
crash cheap tile
with all the force
sugar in the tea.
It's today's enemy
(like cigarettes and
nostalgia and eggs).
what? Now I get to
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.
She holds the grove,
the shade, the cross,
then heads to the house,
husband close behind until
she reaches back her hand
to find his waiting and they
wander their way
More of the same? See Honor and Other Virtues 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
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?
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.
“You want to go get some new
brake pads for your car?”
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.
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,