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.
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.
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,
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.
Down from clouds
beer for beer-bellies
tucked under flesh folds.
“Cleaning girl did a nice job.”
Two waters on counter
Beasts circle fat and bald
thin black sock-hose in beige carpet
flight bags lean on table
beer cans crack.
Bald one experts TV
enters Animal World.
“Text your daughter” says
sweaty navigator leaning at table.
Bald now-greasy pilot nods
drifts back to TV:
what would win — alligator or lion?
Happy B-day text
phone slips inside couch
“Marjorie gonna bring chips?”
Alligator kills lion
as sleepy-not sleepy drink
rolly fingers grip cans
no chips no attendant
(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)
Huh, pilots, right? Here’s some more people. Click here.
And then the STORIES! You gotta see these stories! Click here!
Older than the sidewalk cracks and
street, settled on his flaking porch,
he remembered the Valley when it was trees.
“I’m ready to not be old,”
he said as I passed by.
His eyes were uncommonly blue,
for an old man.
He said: “They published my poem.”
I was on my way to school,
about to not stop.
“Once I get the book,
I’ll read it to you.”
The book cost $49.95.
He held up the flyer they sent.
But he was proud,
so I said nothing.
“Hallo,” he’d say,
waving from his chair.
“Hello,” I’d say,
not wanting to be rude.
top of the world,
have a good day.
Joe was great-uncle wrinkled,
and I had class to get to,
I was a Senior.
But everyone should talk
to a grandpa sitting on a porch.
He asked if I wanted to read his poem.
The book was thick with cheap paper.
I was late but said yes
and the poem was about apples
and I didn’t have to make something up.
It was worth more than the book.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
“I want to read it to my English class.”
Joe gave me his book.
He said to be careful with it.
“I never got published before.”
We sat watching cars
speed down Oxnard Street,
heads moving left to right
then back again, ready.
Joe made coffee
and I listened to stories.
He voted for Roosevelt
and Nixon, twice —
“bet you no one’ll ever tell you that!” —
He didn’t like his grand-daughter.
He said I wouldn’t either.
“Uppity. Ugliness is inner.”
He said if you wanted to get
a pothole fixed in LA,
put a movie-camera next to it
and the mayor would come fill it himself.
He so near the end
talked to me so near the beginning,
said we were bookends on God’s shelf.
His hands trembled, so I carried the cups.
“That’s what age does,
shakes us loose
from the inside out.”
The Oxnard Street poet and
an uppity kid who learned to listen
to words warmed by coffee
is a sound.
Go ahead and make it,
W-R -- do you feel the
gravel in your chest?
almost an OHMMMMM,
is a sound.
Go ahead and make it,
someplace else --
R-H-I, closer to
into the FEE-lds
Sound FRE-eee to LoverSound.
I'll be waiting
to SOW-nd with you.