ferris wheel and carousel in night entertainment park

Poetry Collection: Detroit Richards

The Gold Painted Buddha and the Mooncakes

She was in her 60s, reduced and faded
Drunkenly standing, hands against the
Plate glass window, dangerously leaning,
Berating the plastic buddha who serenely
Sat unhearing, in the window of the
Shanghai Bazaar, speaking tumbling
Words I couldn’t understand
Beyond the fact she was not happy
With Buddha at all.
I wondered if she was protesting her
Loss of beauty, the greying of her hair,
The thickening of her waist, once
Admired by men who see the body
Before they consider the soul.
I thought about joining her
Shouting at Buddha’s customer
Representative that I did not approve
Of all the hurt and suffering
The threats and lack of healing
The loss and the fury and the
Masculine torturing, the dirtying up
Of everything pure, the death of
Good and the rise, once again,
Of evil and all those who do it
Against others.
I wanted to lay my hands against
Fragile cold glass next to her and wail
About the unfairness of a world that
Could not give a flying fuck
About fair, or kind, or free,
Or young, or old….or me.
Buddha, mushroom-wise, turned
His sprayed gold head, his ears
Dangling like Ebisu, lucky in the wind,
Regarded me coldly, coughed the
Spray paint out of his lungs
And shook his head.
“The Eastern Bakery has no
Winter melon, two yolk mooncakes
Left to buy today. It is all she desires
In this world. They have also sold out
Of the no yolk black bean type
Which are not her favorite, but will
Do when there are no winter melon
Two yolk mooncakes left. She is drunk
And her stomach hurts and nothing
Else will do.
She blames me for bringing
So much prosperity and success to
Chinatown –
If there were not so many
Tourists then there would be a mooncake
Left for her at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon.”
He went back to staring placidly at the
Woman, still standing with her hands
On the window, tears running down her
Face, and hitting the sidewalk creating tiny
Clean salty splashes in the dust and the dirt.
“It is not the mooncake that she wants.
She wants an August day in 1982
When the children were small
And she baked winter melon
Two yolk mooncakes and they ate
Them greedily, licking their
Burning fingertips and planting
Greasy kisses on her cheek and
Telling her that she was the
Center of their world.”
I crossed the road, unable to
Listen to the woman crying over
Mooncakes and time, and the
Buddha of Good Fortune
Listening unable to offer
Nirvana, or baked goods,
But knowing that everything
Ends in suffering in the end.

Rooftop Dreamed Up

I dreamed you up
On a rooftop
Of a New York Dive
And I conjured you
Out of moonlight
And Sunday smiles.
You were dancing
In the fallen leaves
You were
In the jazz bar jive
You were tiptoeing
So gently across
My mind.

You were a notion
That I caught
You were a fragile
You were
Coming into view
Riding across
Oceans, mountains
And trees.

I found you in a
Place I never
Expected to be –
I found you in a
Coffee shop
Drinking tea.
I tried to take
You home
I tried to
Bring you into
But from the
Beginning you
Were always
Trying to escape
From me.

You were a notion
That I trapped
You were a ghost
In the machine
You burst into
The world
In a flurry of
And your father’s

I tried to hold you
I tried to catch your
I tried to be the
Anchor to all
Your perpetual

How can you
Trap a butterfly
That doesn’t want
To be caught?
How can you hold
Onto love that
Does not seek
To be sought?
I tried so hard
To help you:
I loved your
Spirit and your
But you always
Were pushing
For one more
Drama: one
More inch
Past the mile.

I see your impression
In a stranger’s eyes
I look for you round
Corners and in certain
Shades of light.
I chase you down
Those pathways
I hunt you down in
But your love is never
Willing to be seen.

You see I dreamed you up on
A rooftop of a New York dive
But little did I know
You didn’t want to be

Swollen Belly Blues
The August heat was melting the sidewalk:
Sun, fully risen, destroying the day.
I walked pregnant past Nihonbashi
Dragon Kirin Statues
Getting lost on my way to work…
Frozen pocari sweat, from Family Mart icebox
Held against neck, barely cutting into
The unrelenting hotness.
Mirrored glass buildings
Shimmered reflecting heat from
Pools collecting on the baked ground and
Then the heavens opened:
Bucketed down gallons of warm
Water that turned to cold on my skin.
Typhoon deluge.
Plastic 100 yen umbrella useless
Against a storm that belonged over
Bamboo forests yet exploded over Tokyo
At unexpected velocity.
I was soaked to the bone.
Hair wet, maternity dress sodden
Underwear sopping, bra clinging
To my uncomfortable body,
Bag soaked. I tried to find a
Pack of tissues – the free ones
That are given out at train stations
By bored young men with superglue
Smiles, and teams of young women
With idol dreams written across
Painted eyelids promising freedom
And Louis Vuitton handbags,
But the tissues were soaked too
And still the rain kept coming down
In sheets and deluge,
In devil-may-care-uncontrollable
Tides of water, as I stopped running
Wondering if running led to drier
Or wetter conclusions
And bedraggled headed into
Takashimaya department store
With 5000 yen in my pocket
Not enough to get into dry
Clothes, trying to dry myself
Off a little in the bathroom…..and failing.
A good umbrella cost 7000 yen
A tube of concealer 2000.
I still needed to eat.
I gave up and walked back out
Into the storm and cried
Unnecessary tears
Washed away into the river
Hobbled by hormones
Make up washed away
From eyes blackened
Lip busted,
Swollen six months
Baby kicking angrily
In a belly that had swallowed
Every single lie about love that it had
Ever been fed.

I don’t even remember home no more
I walked away and closed the door.
That old front room
With its coffee shop windows
And sterile gloom
Was looking more and more
Like a trap or a tomb.
Even the cat had upped and left
I had a nagging feeling in my chest
That if I didn’t get away
I didn’t have too many more days.
Guitars and small screens
Cups of tea and baby’s grins
Cherry blossom walks and arcade cool
Reading Dickens and afternoon home school,
The days they passed in carousel fashion
Ups and downs and remote distractions
Every fist might as well have been a gun
There ain’t no surviving under that
Rising Sun.

“Call the cops!” he leered at me
Keisatsu will take away you not me,
And it was true I soon found out
Locked up waiting to be let out
It happened once, it happened twice
First because he refused to
Sign my visa papers until I
Became ‘nice enough’ for him
To retreat.
The second time he had knocked
Me out in the street
And they shut the door on me
Not him.
I was the one disturbing
The peace by laying bleeding
And failing to be quiet enough
To meet Tokyo standards for
Societal harmony.
I couldn’t even summon enough
Strength for half of me
and failed
To stand up unassisted.
The pigs did not care what he did.

I have an internal record player
That remembers words and music
And saves those thoughts for later
It played me Times Square
And Helpless, it conjured up
This Woman’s Work and Blue Dress
The world went round and I went down
Singing the words to someone else’s
Emotional drowning.
There is no art or craft to suffering.
It is a knack, a learnt response
To bury yourself down and ensconce
Yourself somewhere other than there
Where music plays and you just don’t care.

When I came back to my senses
The record had stopped and I
Had lost my defenses,
Covered in slime
And bites and unwanted kisses
Rose shaped bruises and clumps
Of hair missing
Scratched up and bleeding
Walking with a limp
“Now your manko is black and blue
It looks like it belongs to me
Along with the rest of you.”
He laughed.

I wondered how long I could take
What I had been dealt
How much longer could I fake being human
With feelings and tears
And rights and reasons?
When my well was dried up
And all that I was left with
Was fear, anger and disgust.
The days they passed in carousel fashion
Ups and downs and remote distractions
Every fist might as well have been a gun
There was hardly any surviving
For me under that
Rising Sun.

body of water during golden hour

Sand Sings Survival

I took a handful of sand
Made a clamshell shape
Pressed it between my hands.
But it crumbled and ran
Through my fingertips
Escaping from me
Refusing to be bottled
Like an impossible
Model of a ship.

I sprinkled what was
Left with water to slow
The disintegration down
But it turned into a muddy mess
And returned down to the ground.
I threw it on the fire
But it became glass and
Not the sand I’d found.
I just wanted to look
Through it once in a while –
Record those memories
Which my brain forgot to file,
But heat and flame transform,
And I was not ready
For that trial.

And when I looked
Only a few grains remained
So I wrapped them in tissue
Paper and used them to
Sharp a blade
To cut the memories
Away from the meat,
The walking away from the feet,
The everything away
From the inevitable pain:
The longing away from
The shame.

I went back to the beach
But the beach had all been
And all that stood
There was the rock of ages
Remaining grey against
The sky.
The sea shaped the future
Of the eternal stone
And the sand was all gone
And I realized I had grown.

Nothing lasts forever
Not even love
Or family
Thought trains
Or memory.
Nothing lasts for ever
Not even handfuls of sand
Time keepers
Momento mori
Or desperate weeping.
Nothing lasts for ever
Not even me
Or you
Or the plump hands
Of children walking
Along the street to
With popcorn smiles
And icecream faces,
Nor the giant spiderman
Climbing up the cinema
Building forever bad-guy
Nothing lasts forever
But it all demanded everything
From me
And now I am worn away
Like a handful of sand
Thrown into the

Wedding Day

Does anyone think

What I really want
Is to hold this hand

Does anyone know
When they see his face
That he is the one

What I really want
Is to hold this hand

Is there time to bolt
Into the Maybe-Mercy
Of Tokyo
Street Life,
Not be wife

There is a fascistic
An iron fist
Request made out of

Diamond death cuts holes
In the soles of my shoes
Furnace forges ties

Instead dead carbon glitters
On my third finger,
Band of the Brothers,
Committing my soul

And that flower crown
Queen of Suffering
Ach Du, mein lieber!
They didn’t ask me
“Do you take this man?
Will you give him you
I hook’d my black dress
Over the bedroom
Door, stripped to the bones
The handle twisted.
My husband walked in.
He grabbed my long hair
And in my ear he whispered:


I am
Chalky white
With no flavor
Or substance
No backbone
Or juicy berries
With juice to drip
And hours to
Make merry.
I am milquetoast
Pale and watery.

I flop around
On the plate
Waiting to be
Served up to
And sickly
Wan faced
To be gummed
To death
Along with the
Rest of the
Insipid milquetoast
Crowd cowed under
A totalitarian
Lack of Joy
Amid the terror of
That Ultimate Division.
I am that tepid drink
Of cowless

Hush now!
Don’t tell anybody
I am eggless,
Cream filtered
Off the top,
No fancy French
Dusting of
Powder sugar
To sweeten
The bitter.
A soggy dipped
Gummy piece
Of stodge
That slides down
So easily
Her protests
Never lodged
In the throat
Nor rise up
With the gall.
I am milquetoast
Plain and simple
And that is all.

I will fall apart
The moment
That you lift
Me up to try and
Soften the
Fact that
What you see
Before you is
A watered down
That gets eaten up,
Digested rapidly
And then flushed
Down the nearest

Don’t go with no
Ragged ocean claws
Don’t rock no boat
Or smoke
On the corner with
The stoop-sitting boys
Or the neighborhood
Milquetoast never
Raises her voice
Milquetoast sits in every
Night alone
Hoping beyond
Hope that
She can rest a while
Before getting
Thrown out
To the baying crowds
To stone
And revile.

Planned to be
So much more.
Mat by the

Cheap Memories Held Dear

Plastic pizza hut glasses
Covered with decorative
Lumps and bumps
In nicotine yellowish
Brown, filled with
Soda stream pop
The bubbles fighting
Past the syrup until
They are stopped
By tomato and cheese
Smeared noses
Wrinkled in delight
At all the grease and
Fat and sugary
Expression of my
Loving attempts at
Creating a little
Cheap and easy joy.

Little girl standing in
Roppongi wearing
A quilted pink coat,
Shiny patent sneakers
Hair in a pineapple puff
Holding onto
The chibi body of a
Grotesquely blonde
Cinderella dolly
Who she insisted was
The object of her affections,
Grinning in front of
Christmas decorations
Declaring it was 2004
In Tokyo illuminations
Stuck in a photo now
Who ran towards me
Towards my hug
Calling out mommy
And talking about
Forever and love.

A quarter spent
On an iron pony ride
At the zoo, little boy
Too small to balance
Held there by my
Shaking hand
Sister laughing
At the giraffe.
Improbable creature
I admit, but not
After all.
Long tongue
Licked the leaves
And they laughed
Forever holding hands.
The past is
A long lost land.

What is here today
Is gone by the morning
What happiness
There is in love
Fades and drowns
And is lost in the
Cooling of the

The Weight

The air was full of water and heat
It held my attention like a fly caught
In the web of an angry spider
Cocooning me in panic
Smothering me under a blanket
Made out of tropical meridians
And other people’s ideas of what
To do in the late morning heat
Of a busy Tokyo train station.
In my arms the baby struggled
Leaning away from me
Open mouthed, one shoe lost
Pulling my hair and angrily
Smearing snot over my good
Black pants, mouthing infant
Kisses onto my cheek and
Telling me, in her own sweet
Way, that despite losing her
Shoe, and being too heavy
To carry through Ikebukero station,
That she loved me, Mommy.
Holding on up stairs that tripped me
Arms aching so badly that
I felt as if they were going to fall
Off entirely: heart racing, lungs
Failing to take in oxygen instead
Of mist, the miserable heat of her
Body sending my core into meltdown,
I still continued to carry her,
Crying and screaming and protesting
To be allowed to stagger, heat and
Milk drunk, with one bare foot
Across the concrete, risking toes
And the disapproving looks
Of elderly women who had forgotten
What it is to haul a small child along
In the heat of a Tokyo Morning,
Hanging by the sun in the sky
And the water in the air,
Buried in motherhood
And the loss of selfhood
With snot across your
Best black pants.

Denied Perfect Connection (On Emily Dickinson’s Myself Computed They Were Pearls)

Your hand reached out for the
Same book as mine
Veins standing out
Like flags
Full of blood.
It lingered on my
Purple gloved paw
As we both stared at
Emily Dickinson’s
Envelope Poems
Fall towards the floor.

You caught it before
I moved
You stood there
Collected calm
And said quietly
But firmly
For my ears only
“Want to go get a
I don’t have to go
To work until
Four thirty.”

I ordered a cola
That I knew I could
Not drink,
With a white paper
Straw and wondered
If I could go throw up
In the women’s
Bathroom sink.
I was not prepared
To do the usual dance
Of sneak-wave smiles
And chitter chatter
She pulled off her mask
And patted my arm
Then ripped off Emily’s
Clear plastic cellophane
And read me a line
About beauty and

I sat there not touching
The drink I could not
Gloves and mask on
Though I removed my
Glasses so I could think.
And she read me lines
About summer and
Imitations of madness
And I realized how
Young she looked
And how quickly time

She passed the book
Over to me, and waited
Patiently, and I read
To her some lines
About the color red
And the power of the
Her eyes were bright
With an inner shine.
And when she had finished
Draining a lemonade and
Gin, she reached over to
Me and brushed her lips
Against my skin.

She tore a corner off
A City Lights receipt
And wrote her number
On it,
But I gave her a fake
One back in an act
Of cowardice and
You see if you ever
Read this
It was not because
I thought we didn’t
But because I feared
We were perfect
And I would
Be forced
To live.

san francisco cable car system on street
Photo by Malcolm Hill on Pexels.com

Streetcar Girls

The girl stood on the
Running board of the
Afternoon cable car
Running from California
To Chinatown and Mason.
One skinny hand
Bird-wristed, held onto
The slick brass pole
Where other hands
Had grabbed before her
Leaving fragments of
Filth and dreams
Of life in the City.
The other waved free
In the marine layer breeze
One dainty 9 year old foot
Stood planted on the slim
Platform, the other she
Let swing freely almost
Skating the ground
Wearing out the gum
Soles of her flimsy
Canvas shoes.

As the old streetcar
Pulled up California.
Her parents stood in front
Of her, not looking behind
To see their precious child
Recklessly enjoying the ride.
She got more daring
Leaning her body weight
Held in place only
By her fingers and a wobbly
Foot that searched for
Purchase on the slender
Worn down stander’s only
Perch, climbing uphill.

I am a kill joy.
I wanted to yell at her
“Careful, girl!
You might fall!
What seems fun now
Won’t be fun when you
Under the wheels of
A streetcar named
Desire for Recklessness
Tumbling downhill
Forever climbing upwards
Trying to reach safety
Once more, but always
Dedicated to tasting
Out of the view
Of those who
Love you.
You might find
That freedom
Is a fine
But falling
Ain’t much fun
At all.

Walking up this
On my own two feet
Watching people
Skate upwards
Should be
Warning enough
To hold on tight.
Once you fall off
You are not getting
Back on the

I see my fellow
Streetcar surfing
Letting that perfect
Note of rebellion
Sting on the foggy
And know a life
Spent safely
Watching the ride
Not participating
Is not
For girls like us
At all.
But sisters,
This hill is steep
And tall.

I Have Shark Dreams, Sister!

I dream of sharks
With two legs
Human arms
And shark faces.
They have me trapped
In hospitals
And other
Inhospitable places.
Lean over
Fish breath
Delicate hands
On my breasts
At my head
Before they
Eat my
Face off
And I’m dead.

The people around
Me cannot see
The sharks
Their eyes are closed
To reality,
They live in
The dark.
The people around me
Tell me to be still
That the sharks
Are trying to help,
I wish there was a pill
I could give them
So that they could see
Who are the sharks
When you are
Someone like me.
The sharks are walking
They are on the rise
They have no feeling
In their blank fishy eyes.
Their hands are supple
Their movements precise
Their teeth are churning
Knives cut on
Innocence and ICE.
The sharks smell blood
Whenever they get close
To me,
The sharks are working
On dragging me out
To make a feast of in
Their wide borderless
Sargasso Sea.

My blood is in the water.
Sister, you know
I make good shark tea…
All That Gold

All that gold
And all that jazz
All that glitters
And all that cold
Sadness of
Frittered away
And summer haze
Over the event
Of San Francisco Bay.
All that gold
And all that waste
Of human treasure
Failing to get
A taste of life.
Having and holding
Onto a world gone
Senses left
In the heat
And the smog
And the found
And the lost
Stolen hope!
At such a cost,
In this City
Of Have too much
And have not a lot.
All that’s buried
And all that’s dug up
All that is promised
Down in the scrum
And the muck,
All that is dirty
And all that’s been
All that shines yet
Is not allowed to
Truly gleam.
All that richness
And all that power
All that suffering
And longing for
A long cold mind shower
All that manna
And all that crack
All that buzzes
Down in some North
Beach cocktail shack
All that was and
All that is
Lays inert
And makes

Perhaps I Will Stop Talking

I can open my mouth
And say nothing
Of consequence
And somehow
It says everything
To those who make
Snap assumptions
About my life
And it’s lack
Of afflictions.

My voice says
It is from one place
While my body and soul
Are from another
Entirely different
Across the lines
And hiding in
A cave or forest
Place I perpetually
Exist and belong in.

It says I have more
While I struggle
With less than
And Unspoken
Time again.
My voice says
Cultured like a pearl
My soul has been
Through the seven
Rings of someone’s

My voice does
Not belong to me.
I borrowed it
From someone
Else who lived a different
Life, free from strife
Who is sitting in
Some ivory attic
Of an venerable
Somewhere utterly
While I move
And drift
Across states
Of distress and
Crossing county
Lines in a forever
Safe somewhere
Far away

I have a cuckoo soul
It doesn’t dare ask
For whom this bell
Or that ringtone
I have a hermit crab
Throwing a voice
From a place I escaped
Long ago
Echoing seductively
Across the winding
Ocean, driving
People to
I look in the mirror
And see so much
Less than.

Will I throw myself
Upon the transforming
I have ridden and I
Will ride
Until I finally
Manage to
What others
Snap judgement
Pocket and

Perhaps I will
Stop talking
Perhaps I will
Stop talking


Juliet in Memories

Juliet sat on the floor of my room
Legs akimbo wearing stripes and
Cotton, face freckled by
The stars and lit by Diana’s moon.
Hair in black curls falling gentle
As the dew
As she said she loved me
And I told her that I
Loved her too.

Juliet looking playful, a smile
Drifting across her face
Didn’t know how beautiful
Nor how full of grace
Was the plump of her mouth
Or the curve of each apple breast
Or the delicate spread of fingers
That beckoned me to rest.

She pulled me down in front of her
And offered to brush my hair
I sat between her patterned thighs
And wondered how to share.
Then Juliet she kissed me,
She shivered a little in the fear
That I would jump up hastily
And leave her desolate in tears.

I pulled her arms around me
I kissed each and every finger
As I told her that I meant it
And let my kisses linger
And finally when she realized
That my love was not of the
Casual kind, she laughed
So sweet and freely as she
Proceeded to blow my mind.

One day a year or so later
Her mother called my phone
Told me her Juliet had passed
Into the great beyond.
That Juliet had wanted to talk to me
But didn’t know my number,
She went downhill so quickly
And then all there was left was slumber.
I was left there still sitting
This time with a needle in my arm
I tried so hard to reach her
But my Juliet was gone.

It’s No Party

As always Franklin is hopping
With suffering and insanity,
A downtown San Franciscan
Dirty hippy kind of mundanity.
The cross streets scattered
With cardboard and bags:
Bags of shit
Bags that are empty
Or those sometime-lucky
Bags that have been dropped
In the rain but remain intact
With white powder or tan,
But who would risk it?
Someone who is not me
Not now my life is not
In the bag
Under the overpass or
Bleeding out in fractions
Of light and life and hope.
I’m dangling by another
More fragile rope.

A man drags himself along
The sidewalk on his backside
Pulling his legs along using
His hands: he looks broken,
Like someone stole his wheelchair,
Or perhaps he had been beaten,
Or pulled along by the hair.
He is in trouble of various
Exotic and mundane kinds
His pants are shredded
Newspapers on his feet
I can’t bring myself to meet
His eyes, I can’t offer any help,
And the fact I feel useless
Matters not at all at all at all
Not when he is on the floor
And my back is against the wall.

What matters is that life is
Getting lived down, not up;
And the parties that everyone
Thinks are happening, are not.
And the fun that everyone believes
To be occurring is not
So much fun at all.
This is the long walk
Down the very short haul.
Not tomorrows nor today’s
Parties or expectations,
It is not hedonism:
It is existentialism.
It it the logical conclusion
To conservatism
That some have everything
And some have nothing
That some get the cream
And others the greasy slop;
That some get the boost
While others the chop.

Franklin is always hopping
With insanity and suffering
And if you look closely
You’ll see a woman with tears
In her eyes and a Velvet
Underground teeshirt who
Is wearing an average disguise.

Snapshot Honey (To Patti Smith)

Snapshot honey in the middle of the night
Crack shot baby, everything gonna be alright
You are a backdoor sweetheart in the middle of the room
Like a lightbulb sitting in the center of a tomb.
Bobby said the guard is changing, the power’s all run out
Love ain’t enough but it sure beats Twist and Shout.

Beachside Angel with a candy store smile
You’re a mile ahead gotta wait a little while
Pearl’s got your back, and a devil’s on your shoulder
Gotta play the game, gotta be a little bolder.
Barefoot dancing, Chelsea in the rain.
Everyone knows for pleasure you gotta deal in a little pain.

Train tracks locker room pretty for a boy
Smash his head wide open, give yourself a little joy.
Hot wax St James coffee shop
Glass shatter book store cream rises to the top
Horses horses dragging you away
They say ‘My my” you already moved onto “Hey Hey!”

Ornamental factory made knickknacks
Smooth sheen powder pancake glitter dust
Boys all strutting only for themselves
Baby baby baby left up upon the shelf
Gloria Gloria poppy picking scream,
I bow down to the New York Queen.

You’re a picture perfect Rimbaud recollect
Paris graveside marionette
Sepia deepest darkest souvenir
If I had a clipper ship could we disappear?
Do the watusi switchblades preferred
Dance the sweet pea:
Your voice was all I heard.

You are a far more deserving inventor then
All those who went before you
A musician in fact:
Someone who found something
Resembling the key of love….

The Writer’s Complaint

I would rather die on the page
Than at 3am on the freeway
Driving to Salinas with the devil
At my back, an empty coffee cup
And a rancid fast food sack.

I would rather crash and burn
These words together
Skidding unruly verbs
To see what thought sticks
And which action hurts,
Than to spend a life stitching the edges
Of fragments of mundanity,
No matter what calamity:
Is all just boiled eggs, puke and bricks.

I would rather drown at 30,000 words
Than go down on that shaky fishing boat,
I can write myself a heroine
Who can teach the fishes how to float.

I cannot fathom, no matter how simple
How I can live silent and still
Like a nun with her wimple
And her hands on the rosary,
Speaking old verse devoted to keeping
Her living far too hopefully.

Or stoic and hard working with
Washerwoman fingers, scrubbing
The filth from a dozen miserable malingerers
With hungry infant faces
And ravenous starving bellies
Who suck the marrow from the bones
Of a million regretful nannies.

All these paper soldiers I write in
Acts one, two and three,
Shooting origami tigers
Up in molded plastic trees
Have no use of bullets, just
Staccato rhyming meter.
Their glory runs on adjectives,
Their deaths mostly conjured up imagined
In shades of cordite and saltpeter.
But nothing cools the ardor
Of those ravenous hungry hordes
That I wrote last Thursday,
Or dulls the silver of their swords.

No smile will ever be as lovely
As the one on the protagonist’s lips
As she realized beauty and how
Everything about her neatly fit.
No, life is not as concise
Nor edited for clarity,
Most of us bobble along hopeful
For some act of human charity.
Soul mates do not find each other
Walking down the road,
Of if they do the princess is left
Realizing she has kissed some
Mean old ugly drunken toad.

I have no use for realism,
Magic or otherwise,
I don’t wish to write another
Episode of lords and kings and flies.
I don’t care much for romance,
At least that is what I say,
But as I wrote them kissing
My mind started to fray.

Horror is always with me,
Drama, my greatest enemy,
And when I am happily tapping,
The laptop on my knee,
Everything is so ordered
And lives so wild and free.
I keep thinking I should get out
Talk to someone living,
But then a brawl breaks outside
And sends the daytime reeling.

I would rather die on the page
And then breathe some life back
In by the next chapter,
Than deal with the hostile reality
Made by others who live to make that
Looking glass mirror world
Crack from side to side and shatter.
I’ve had my seven years
Over and over again –
And yet more tragedy
Comes pouring out this pen.

I don’t want to admit words
And lives are linked –
Flesh and ink,
But of course they are;
You can’t destroy the world
Only write it into lack of limitations
If I could only live in the pages
I wouldn’t have to dream of no
Creative insurrection.

But my rebellion is contained
In syllables and principles,
It lives for tiny moments
Like the gilding on church steeples,
It is quashed and it is reasoned with,
It is sullen and it is tired
And every night when I put
The pen down, the muse threatens
Me with ideas
Or else boasts about
Trying to get me fired!

The Fist Is In A Clench

The key is in the lock
The lock is in the door
The latch can’t save my skin
But I can’t take any more.

The fat is in the fire
The spark is in the flame
The night is young and lovely
Yet I am held to blame.

The fist is in a clench
The iron is in my throat
The blood is in my eyes:
Life is a bloody joke

He sings a song to cops
Called Gaijin Are Insane.
The baby quietly whimpers:
Somethings they never change.
The sun comes up so early
In this city full of glass
And I don’t want to die here
But I don’t see how I can last.
The key is in the lock
The lock is in the door
The latch wont hold forever
But I can’t take much more.

selective photography of skeleton key hanging
Photo by Sergij on Pexels.com

The Dealership On Van Ness

Old Glory flies
Above the Toyota flag
Over the dealership on Van Ness
Warning passers by that
You don’t mess with the military might
Of the best of the very best.
But if war is good, and war is just
And bombs can provide a solution
Why do I feel the heat of shame
Rising in my brain
And have the urge to beg for
On the streets of Higarigaoka
Back in ‘99
A woman held out her hand to me
Whilst holding a hand written sign.
It said ‘ban the bomb’ and
‘An end to war’
Her body shook, her skin was raw,
She tried to speak my language.
She said to me she was but six years old
When America dropped the bomb
And left her in eternal bandages.
Her mother she evaporated,
Her father already died,
Her brother he did not survive.
Some kindly doctor with
A soul of steel had dressed her
Arms and back.
Her wounds never healed, not really,
And pain was the one thing
That she never ever lacked.
I apologized, let her speak her
Piece, and then I walked away
But was caught forever looking back.
To love a flag is all well and good
But to love humanity is much better
Because when the sky rains fire
And civilization burns
War proves peace is nothing
But a dirty little liar.
Old Glory flies above the Toyota
Flag on the roof
Of the dealership on Van Ness
And all those years have come and gone
But civilization is still a bloody mess,
And nothing has been proved to me
Except that people get much meaner
And birds of a feather flock together
When war becomes theater.
And when the bombs start falling
The peace is sacrificed to reasons
And excuses,
And I’ll never find the words
To tell how the human heart should
Transcend all visible boundaries
And resist all evil uses.
And how the hibakusha
In Higarigaoka
Taught me a lesson
In humility and shame
And how the economy of death
And destruction
Is always to fucking blame.

North Beach Hustle

California light shine so bright:
Skaters and fakers
Bar dwellers and coffee drinkers
Walkers and dragon dancers
Orchestral maneuvers
Down Kerouac Alley.
Filbert Steps
Break neck steep
The evening starts to
Creep creep creep,
Silhouetting palm trees
Sending people hurrying
Trying to get in
Before the night fall
Brings out the creatures
Who thrive in the dark
Who hunt and hustle
And bark at each other
While crab pots boil
Oyster eaters toil
Over shells on
Sawdust floors
Drinking screwdrivers
Pints of Guinness
Hair of the dog
That bit them on
The ass last night
In some North Beach
Bar. None of it survives
Until the morning
When the City wakes
Shakes off the smoke
The steam that rises
From the sewers
And all the desperate
Cries of pain and hate
And all things that
Cities feed on
And so live on
Way past human
Hunter S Thompson’s
Shirt hangs behind the
Bar of the Buena Vista Cafe
Bottle of Chivas half full.
Cafe Trieste sadly strikes
Time day after day.
And Beat Poet wannabes
Pretend to be sitting
With Jack outside
Vesuvio wondering
How it felt to be
On top of a world
That sought to destroy
Them for everything
They believed in.

That Rooster’s Gotta Go!

The cock crowed more
Than three times today.
Silver crossed palms
Silver spiked forearms
Silver in veins
Silver threaded pain
That Rooster gotta go!

Dump truck alarm call
Radio station noise
Call and return
Between the corner boys
Fire truck sirens
Cops join the party
Rooster’s yelling hearty.
Don’t you know, man,
That Rooster gotta go!

This city’s not meant
For early risers
Cocky spur fighters
At at first lighters.
This city sleeps in
And the mermaids
Weep poison while an
Earthbound Poseidon –
Trident spear’s stolen –
Yells at the dawn
In language forgotten,
Bob says to tell ya
The sun ain’t just
Yellow, it’s a chicken;
That Rooster’s gotta go!

Being precious about
Silence, the kind of
Person that noise
Drives to thoughts
Of violence,
Is never gonna wash
In this hustle and
Bustle, earning
A crust for the
Birds, a cent for
The words, a bowl
Of ramen: a chicken
Scented, no harm done,
Kind alternative.
“He’s gone to live
On a farm! Happy
Ever after. A
Few hens to look
After, chicks need
A father….”

It is too quiet
In the mornings
Now he has gone
To live in Sausalito
Or where ever
The birds go.
Did the rooster
Really have to go?
And what will we
Do now the bird’s
Flown the coop.
Is anyone really
Free in the city?
Does anyone care?
It’s such a pity
That the Rooster
Had to go!

The Wreck of the 90’s Diner

The paint is peeling
The chairs decaying
The tables waiting
And yet still I can taste
The strawberry milkshake
And greasy burgers
That somehow were
Definitively artificial
Hitting all the right
Notes of berry and meat
And plastic tomato catsup
And bleached bone dry
Margarine soaked wheat
Yet not tasting of those
Things at all,
But the ghost
Of fruit and flesh and the
Bottle flies that land on
Yellow and red squeezable
Containers, retaining
Only the brain-memory
Of what those things
Should be, would be and
Were, back when
The paint was fresh
And the tables attended
And the chairs not fraying
And a man in a soiled
Apron working made
Burgers and milkshakes
Not franchised, nor
Hipsterized, not crafted
Nor factory-marketed
But simple syrup and
Fat, and the heat on
His back, and converse
Sneakers propped up on
Tables, and drug deals
And joints, and the
Drama of youth
And Cher playing
“If I could turn back time”
And the radio station jerks
With their soda fountain
Quirks, provided the
Soundtrack to something
That felt like heaven
In E numbers and cheap
Burgers, and the small
Pleasures of time running
Like water through the
Fingers of other people’s

The chair in the corner
Back to the wall
A place someone
Could wait for
Possibility to come
Back again,
Was carried away
And thrown onto
The dump truck
Of dreams.
Good riddance.
I never needed
Them anyway
But those strawberry
Milkshakes that
Taste like someone
Trying to describe
Milk and Berry
Topped with
Fake cream and
A maraschino cherry
With charred floppy
Burgers in shades of
Reckless abandon
Remain dirty and
In the darkest
Back alleys
Of my psyche.

Paper Moons and Calico Flowers

Paper moons and
Calico flowers
Steel skies and
Destruction flowers.
Cotton clouds and
Bakelite birds
Clockwork fishes and
Mechanical herds.
Neon moonlight and
Origami trees.
I am unreal and
You are all imaginary.

Coffin sleepers and
Sidewalk creepers
Mama’s on the run ’cause
Papa beat her.
Uncle Joe’s not worked
Since Vietnam,
Frannie got popped
For half a Xan.
And nobody’s eating
And everyone is grieving
And the lights are out but
There will be no sleeping.
Old Tom gave me half of
His last pack of socks.
Everyone is running and
No one can stop.
Even the Doc is in bed
With Uncle Sam
Who gave out oxys
Then pulled back his hand.
What they give one day
They take the other
Everyone out here is an orphan
Crying for mother.

Paper tigers and
Wax figurines,
A bloodied pulsing
Heart in darkness
Beating reality.
Suitcase drums and
Burning strats
“Heart Attack and Vine”
Playing on subwoofer stacks.
The day melts slowly
Dripping down the bottle.
The bottle sits waiting
For the mind to get hostile.

What they give one
With one hand
They take with the other:
Everyone out here
Is a real person.
Everybody had a mother.
Hollywood Revolver

This ain’t no Hollywood revolver
This ain’t no New York fashion chain
This ain’t no free five dollar gamble
This ain’t no ordinary pain.

This ain’t no Halloween splatter show
This ain’t no passion play
This time cannot be undone
And this girl won’t go out that way

There ain’t no space in this world
Big enough for you and me.
There ain’t no comfort we can seek
There ain’t no escaping what has to be.

This is the real deal
This is that coca cola jive
This is the deep dark delving into
A buzz cut one-mind factory hive.

This is that gat that got get
This is that boom boom room
This is that forever after
That lies beyond the tomb.

This ain’t no Hollywood revolver
This ain’t no old time revenge tragedy
This ain’t no stunt rope dangling
This is not some fake plastic tree.

He said “Baby, everyone has to pick
Themselves up off the ground sometime.
Everyone takes their risks
Some of us do the time
Everyone needs to learn to dry their tears
Everyone gotta live with some pain
You got to get yourself together
Or else hurry up and
Go lay under that fucking train.”

…the streetcars keep running….

The street cars keep running
From dusk until dawn
In ghostly cavalcades
And processions they mourn
Every nerve that’s been thrown
And shattered by the might
Of the weight that gets thrown
Around the Tenderloin at night.
And the North Beach Boys
They’ve got it locked down by
Lighting up the city and
Painting the town, singing
“The bricks have been built
And the mine has been dug
And the diamonds and gold
Have been turned into mud.
And the books are all bound
For glory yet nobody digs
What has been written.
Its all pearls before pigs.
The records have been cut,
But not a bite has been bitten:
The fruit hangs low, but is sour
And crippled.

I can’t tell the difference
Between wished for and real.
I can’t stop this movie from
Flicking round the reel.

But what I want to know is
How the streetcars keep running
Though the power’s burnt out.
And how the wires keep on crossing
Yet my heart twists and shouts.
And how so many arms that’re empty
Once they were filled.
And how everything is dying
And everyone is ill.
But the street cars keep running

Junk Prayers: A Small Town American Dream

Hail! Five dollar dilaudid
Full of filler!
The pockmarked Blonde
is with me!
Superior are ye amongst opiates
And blessed is the Kingdom
When it comes
Falling out
From the sky!
Jeez! Holy cow!
Kissing the heavenly
Slide or the stairs –
The supreme rocket rush
Blows back all cares.

I miss you, Phoria:
Tainted with mechanical
The warm itch rarely
Mining the golden vein
Is a dangerous proposition,
yet swallowing them
A crime.
There is no time.
We dig the ditches
We raise the flag,
And pray for continued breath
Sweeter than
Any other kind of
Communion with heavens

The maker of the phone lines
That open communication
To the other side,
Rhodes, (ph)farms the junkies
For insurance money
And glad we are for it.
Blessed are the pill mills
The junkie nurses
And the dodgy doctors
With the keys to the
Gates of Heaven,
Or at least the meds safe
On the second floor.
Blessed are unprovable
Bad backs and
Blessed are the rich in $$$
And medical insurance
For they will never have to kick.
Blessed are the junkies
For their needs are simple.
Blessed is the blonde who
Do not know the value of a
Blessed are the grannies
Who think that taking their
Own scripts is an exercise
In ‘silly’.
Blessed are those that get well
And those that get sick.
Blessed are those that toss
In 50 cents into the days’
Drug pool.
Blessed are those who pass by.
Blessed are those who shed a tear
And cry.
Blessed are the straight, because
Someone has to be.
Blessed are the speed freaks
For they stay awake
Eyeing the narcan
And slapping drooling
Blessed is Patti Smith
Lou Reed
And Syd Barrett
Who knew the value of
Numb and outspoken.
Blessed is the memory
Of the black-tarred feathery
Ghost of diamorphine
On the West Coast.
Blessed is the monkey
Marmoset and ape.
Every road leads to the sea
And just another simian
With a grip of steel –
One for you
And one for me.

I have but one plea:
Have mercy on us
Now, and at the hour of
Every little death.

Rat Sailors: A Fairytale

The clipper ship rolled down the Hudson steering into port
On it’s bow a black freight liner and on it’s helm was caught
A returning sailor coming home from sea
Shouting all you who have sailed far
You’re coming home to me.
To me.

All the Jim Jims in this town have left for the Vermont Hills
Some fled to Connecticut
Some they paid the bill:
The city is up for sale
Two peas in a lone brown shell
A handful of beads
A white line from William Tell….
I won’t tell

The Captain he approached the dock
Set forth his Bill of Demands
You give this city back
To the lost and the forlorn
The Leather Jackets, the Mau Maus, the artists
And the Freaks
In return we’ll bring peace and calm
To those at land lost at sea…
You see…

Captain Jack and the Metal Machine Man
Were singing of Berlin,
As they loaded the cannon
And the sails they did trim
The Captain wore a silver wig
He carried a big cigar
Saying, “We can do this peacefully
Or we can go to war.”
What’s more…

I was sweeping the dorms in the
Old Chelsea Hotel
I had changed all the sheets
Drawn water from the ink well
Standing around, gathered
In a crowd were the few
Souls that were left
There are diamonds
In the mine
There’s still treasure in the chest:
What’s left?

We’ve Bobby guarding the bottle down on Desolation Row,
Ike’s been a good old boy, he’s gonna go with the flow.
The weathermen say there’s one temperature and it’s
Hot in the city tonight,
Pirate Jenny’s made up
And the Rider’s have the Right
To Fight.

They’ve run the rigging up to steal
Lady Liberty’s cheap perfume –
It’s being used as smelling salts
For the fisher king, who’s
Standing on the tomb
Of the ghost of a smile
The spirit of the haze
The walkers on the east side
Say it’s been a perfect day…
No way…

Boiled bagels, antique labels
Margot Fonteyne’s left shoe
Are thrown into the cooking pot
To brew that bitch’s stew
I served it up in a leather cup
To the remnants of the scene
Drink deep all you sailors
Who have been lost
At sea with me.

Peeking around the corner I saw Lester and little Jack Horner
Pulling thumbs and assorted plums out of a
Television run on quarters
Dangling by a silken thread in the neon dome spotlight
The gardener and the Station Master
Were testing out the lights
The time’s right.

Twenty thousand dollar silken vests
Hundred buck coffee cups
Were hurled at the painters
The hustlers and the schmucks
They returned fire with Plato
Verlaine and old Rimbaud
Throwing flowers at the
Potter’s field,
Hanging fairy lights
As they go…
So low…

I don’t mean to suggest that
This is everything left that’s pure
This city ain’t seen that shit
Since Manhattan was goats and manure
Since fiddlers had songs to sing
Since the iron curtain fell
It’s just this dirt is honest
And there’s still stories
Left to tell
In Hell.

The Governor came to the gang plank
Solemnly carrying a cheap Macy’s bag
Full of glassine envelopes
And mortuary toe tags
Here are the keys to the city, boys
Be sure to turn out the lights
I’m leaving for Cape Cod
Before day turns into night

As they disembarked the Captain
He handed out
Copies of the vinyl single –
B side of Twist and Shout
Two hundred ermine brushes
A hundred burnt notebooks
Singing here are your weapons
If you need anything else
You had better loot..
Go look…

The fish truck’s unloading yesterday’s old news
Onto the streets where violence does spew
The rats they mounted a full attack
On an army of racoons –
Who armed with rusty switchblades
Are protesting the right to chew
..Anything they choose..

The survivors are pleading with tears in their eyes
This is all just garbage,
It’s not worth so many lives.
The racoon leader stood up
On his one remaining paw,
Squinted rakishly and said
“Hey what’s the score…
Anybody want some more?”

The rats all ran onto the retreating ship
Emptied of its crew,
Claiming victory whilst on dry planks they chew.
The racoons feasted on the Golden Goose’s egg:
The Tribeca is full of sharks
But none of us are dead…
Not yet.

The moral to this story, the end to this fairytale
Is not all rats are sailors, and not
All racoons are for sale,
Not all keys are worth the dying,
Not all songs are to be sung;
The heat is not a cure
For that you need the sun…
I’m not done…

Heading out to Hoboken
I made to turn around –
I’d heard about some Luau
Going down in the next town,
They were burning effigies,
They were cooking pork and beans,
So I rode into the sunset
Where a woman can be free
Not to please.

Holding out a flower, holstering his gun
The Sheriff said “Don’t leave, we’re going underground…
Don’t make a sound…

Angel of Times Square

The Angel he landed in the midst of Times Square,
Broken and shattered and matted of hair.
In the warm dirty hum of the neon bright light
He knew how to sing but had lost means of flight.
Angel dear Angel son of the wind,
You once looked on glory
And wished you were him.
Angel dear Angel, child of light!
Born out of peace
But cursed through fight.
The Angel jumped the turnstile and
Hopped the D train
Mankind stank of sweat, sin and shame.
The Daughters of Eve didn’t look twice at him
Clothed in skins and pale and thin.
Angel dear Angel choir’s delight!
You once sang Gloria bathed in white light,
Angel dear Angel, beloved of Eloheim Adonai;
You once drank the spirit but now long to get high.
Bleeker Street beckoned with whiskey and haste –
No time to lose, no sin to waste.
Deep in the Bowery alehouse din,
You looked at a young man
And called out to him.
Show me your harp, let me look upon it!
Who do you speak funny?
Hey what is this?
A guitar, a fiddle, a harpoon, a whale!
You have a bright soul…
Is it for sale?
Angel oh Angel give me a name!
I want glory and money, poetry and fame.
Angel oh Angel can I be what you be?
The Angel told his first lie and said:
Man, you can be me.
Up on the stage of the Bitter End
Three men sang of a love without end.
One man softly moaned in the glare of the spotlight
About poets and kings and Rimbaud and flight.
Angel oh Angel make me a scene!
Bake me a pie, make me a king!
Give me reason and beauty, faithless insight.
Make me the voice of a generation,
Bathe me in white white light.
The Angel distilled the tears of a queen,
Shot up her sadness at the state of man’s sin,
Chased it with the liquor of sorrow, sadness and grief –
Toasted death and the maggot,
Drank a shot to the thief.
Angel oh Angel, enemy of Man,
Bite at my heel
Exile me in sand.
My trees bear no fruit, my sorrows multiply
My victory is certain, in spite of your lies.
The Angel decided to get outta town,
Lots of knives and forks, lots of new songs and sounds.
Meanwhile a monkey sat in a barber’s chair..
The Angel clicked his cuban heels and combed his blonde hair…
Goodbye New York….Howdy East Orange!
Angel oh Angel, Lucifer’s your name,
Prince of Lies, Earth’s temporary ruler of pain.
A pint of salt, a cloth made out of sack:
All hands to the plow
The King’s coming back..
Angel oh Angel, son of the wind
You looked upon Glory and wished
You were him.


Down by the docks
Where memory stops
And the cold air covers my face,
I walk hand in hand
Held together by a band
Fashioned from leather and lace.

And what time doesn’t heal
It takes away.
What time doesn’t fade, it destroys…
Till its all noise.

The gypsy caravan is burnt out and the man
Holds his head in his hands as he laughs.
The smile washes from his face in a wave of disgrace
As they bring in the National Guard.
It’s all just noise

Mr. Rogers and McCarthy were vain and foolhardy
But at least they knew the value of fear.
Now Lassie’s on the hook
For all that they took
And Timmy’s left howling at the moon
In tears.

Mona Lisa’s highway smile
Has long since been defiled
Now she hides behind a bulletproof case.
Columbus’s on the job,
But it takes all he’s got
Not to throw the towel in her face.

Its all just noise

Somewhere far timbre is carved into a bar,
Singing someday I know I’ll be free…
But little did he know what freedom would bring
When he spent it with me; or
What time doesn’t heal
It takes away
What time doesn’t fade, it destroys
Till it’s all just noise

So, I take a walk in the rain,
And it’s a very hard rain
The truth is sometimes too hard to bear.
Summer is out, and the wild dogs shout –
Once unleashed for peace they really don’t care:
Its all just noise.

Lilly Marlene tells you to stay off the train,
Guardsmen aren’t always what they appear.
The boat’s a trap and so is the lap
Of Santa Klaus and his rain, dear
Because what time doesn’t heal
It takes away,
What time doesn’t fade
It destroys,
Until it’s all just noise.

Judy blue eyes was born
In a house in a storm,
In a place where the rapids are grand,
She and her little dog
Do the tin man hop,
And escape with Alice to Wonderland.

The words on the floor
Opened the door,
But it took years before you could see me.
In your leopard skin cap –
Tales of your dead racoon cat,
Now we live in a forest by the sea.

I blame Mr. Dylan for all that is hidden
From the musketeers that parade round this place.
They march up and down
Making not a sound,
Lacking both in form and in grace….
And in noise.

The pleasure in each moment
The pain in each smile,
Is twisted together in a haze.
They tell you love hurts,
But they don’t know what’s worse
When you speak only to dumb and to fazed –
Its all just noise.

I take a walk in my mind
Past fields and through time
Back to a Tokyo view.
Where the children were young
Neath that rising sun
But life was empty without you.

Gibberish cinema, mother farm, sushi bar
I hid my light under a fifty inch tv.
You reached through the screen,
Heard my silent scream
Now we are close but have come so far, dear.

Now I am scared that I’ll be left to the

Take a snapshot of my mind
At any given time,
And frame me for my crimes.
I’ll take the Fall –
The short walk down the long haul,
And hang my head from the sign
That says:

You Will Be Left With The Noise

I’m not so sweet
Now I’ve got boots on her feet,
And I’m wearing Lou’s leather vest.
Riding in a Ford Super Duty, Jim!
Complaining that the days gone by had the best

So have a heart, let me go back to the start
Let me try this again.
My hands are clean
But the machine is just mean and
The Angels forgot to play and they
What time doesn’t heal
It takes away,
What time doesn’t fade
It destroys:
Till all you have left is


Beat Till Tender(Loin)

Strains of Hotel California escape through doors of packed bars, the city is at play, the restaurants looked slammed today. Mason jars of orange (and vodka), screwdriver hipsters in gilets and chuck taylors sit at sidewalk tables relaxed. A man coughs into his telephone, no mask, two beers, one for an invisible date who doesn’t appear in the time it takes me to walk past.

A white dog rests on it’s paws, old man sits alone with his drink, grimacing at some invisible pain, his face gurning, coke-wise, ancient yearning. White dog pricks his ears, and I am gone. There’s a new spot on Polk, it smells like onions and cheap liquor. Leopard brindled dog smells sausages and pulls hopefully at his owner’s leash. There are no spots on him. Can’t fool him. He knows she is headed inside to eat sweet salty meat, and doggily hopes for a crumb to fall his way. I am that dog. Hoping for crumbs.

The Head and Soul Saloon advertises cuts for sale. You can kill somebody with a thousand cuts, I think to myself, then realize it is a salon, not some far west shoot out joint serving hard drinks to hard men. Tipsy Turvy Star Wars theme, a dark night elegy march in squeeze box fits and starts hops along the road, there is a gypsy feel to his energetic ramblings, some woman tells him to shut up, and he squeezes harder, making his accordion sing songs from movies nobody loves anymore.

Empty houses. Empty streets. Empty hearts. Empty seats. The city falls away as you leave Polk. A man on a bicycle does a wheelie down Lombard. No shirt, skin glistening with sweat, hair moving with the unwiseness of such endeavors, he jerks up on the handlebars, the wheels shaking in response. This is not a good idea, the force of the downwards slope and the exertion of his peddling conspire to put him in the hospital, as he races towards the bay, towards the deep blue eternal. He makes it, his front wheel slams down hard, and he is gone too.

We swing left not right where the wild ones go, gingerly pick our way over grass and woodchips, watching out for hidden turds and someone else’s discarded sharps to wards the Presidio. The Beach is packed full of optimistic souls. It is hot today, white pale girls in tiny bikinis push out their non existent chests at the sun, and defiantly plant bare feet in sand.

A child picks through the beach with a bucket and a little plastic digger and comes up triumphant with a dark brown sand covered desiccated thing, she holds it in her hand, sniffs it, and realizing she has struck brown gold, flings it away from herself with a loud UGH. Her mother looks the other way into her telephone. She is not paying attention today, she looks like a woman on her day off.

Can’t blame her, but still….the child digs in the San Franciscan sand. No shoes, no masks, sun umbrellas, hands round glass, determined, steely to enjoy the day. I laugh at their machinations and go on my way…to the Presidio. A child shoeless on San Franciscan streets, nice red wagon, expensive looking mother, designer sunhat, totters along pulling her dog and a banana republic sweater. Her mother’s feet are in shoes. Who goes shoeless on streets like this? Only the too rich to worry about medical bills, and the too poor to afford shoes.

The hills, the hills the hills in this town are conspiring to kill me. Hills that go up and never go down, hills that stare you in the face, lead you towards the ‘loin, or else to the bay to drown in ice cream and men eating churros. I can’t ever breathe in this part of town. I prefer to head towards the ferry building with boys on skateboards, some waving their arms wildly trying to stay afloat, others sleekly jumping over planters or skidding down metal railings while I tut like the mother that I am, shaking my head at their wild abandon and wishing I could be like them.

I used to be able to climb hills. I cannot climb them anymore, not without panting in panic, ripping the mask from my face, gulping down air that smells like the seaside, air that smells like rich houses, air that smells like bars and cigars and other people’s fun. We trudge back towards the Tenderloin. I put my mask back on.

The air smells like death and pollution. It smells grey and needs absolution on the streets of San Francisco. I love the Tenderloin.
Beat till tender, the bones of the city adhere to this creed.
Beat them till they give up their juice, or else the ghost of any hope that is left. The pigs are taking away the tents on the ‘Loin today, five cop cars to one car of “homeless liaison” advocates who wielding clipboards and stern faces, take away everything these people own, into the garbage truck that loads up lives to bury them somewhere else in the state of California. I hustle on past, think about crossing myself, some devil on my shoulder laughs, and I look away. Tender hearted, tender fleshed, tender life pounds them into a cool empathic hush.

Geary Street Boys

Where else can the boys sit in their tents, searching for something other than which they had besides a bedside table missing the drawer, a stolen bicycle and a broken lawnmower with no lawns on which to go? A torn up scratching pole for cats, which looks as if a tiger has had at it, a single shoe. A bread roll. Half an peach, covered in flies. A lump of poo. A baby’s arm… holding an apple, or is it some insurance guy caught with his pants down, who having sold his last policy, exchanged it for a large rock, and opened shop on Geary.

Everybody here has a story. Every body here has no body except themselves. Sometimes they do not have themselves either. The man’s hands dug into the raffia and rope, burrowing in deep, feline ecstasy, clawing with bloodied fingertips, moaning softly to himself at the satisfaction of it all, grasping the pole between wasted thighs, eyes rolled back. His feet are bare, but only one shoe has migrated discarded behind him.

It gives him no pleasure. It triggers no joy! It is gone. Marie Kondo’d. Gonzo’d. His psyche a no go. His nails are gone too. He weeps openly. I feel the desire to go and lay my hands on his dripping head, tell him, brother, peace! Enough! But he tiger-growls, goes low with himself against the brown-stained sidewalk, and jealously holds onto the object of his affections with the detritus of his affliction scattered about him. There is nothing to see here.
It is just the Geary Street Boys.

A mite of grit blows into my eye as I walk up an alley towards Post. Gloved wet hands, sweating in the San Franciscan June can’t solve the problem. I have worked out that if I wear my shades, the dollar fifty round black ones, the square perspex clear, or even the glasses I use for reading, that the Boys of Geary are a touch more aggressive towards me. I don’t know if they like to see my eyes, or if I either look too hip or not hip enough. Whichever, whatever, I don’t wear glasses when I have to walk through the ‘Loin. My dress choices are decided by crackheads.

Black denim and a baseball hat, no make up, with my round black spex is the most excitable combination, this gets ’em running at me. Add some make up, no glasses and my little scarf with foxes on it, and I become somewhat more invisible. More feminine, softer and the ride out of downtown is smoother.

“Hey whatchooneed?” A skinny white boy shuffles over to me with a half smile on his face and fairy wings lashed to his backpack. A half hearted smear of glitter silvers his cheekbones. I have never seen such a desiccated and dry man look so bedraggled. A small rainbow pin whispers that love is love is love. “It’s ok, sweetie, I’m good” – I give him a small smile. Sweat runs a clean line across his forehead.

A shower, a meal, a bit of gentle care and this boy would sparkle. He shifts away slowly as the walk don’t walk shows green. There is fear in his walk, there is hesitancy in his posture, a broken slouch in his step. One wing droops half heartedly, dejected, limp. He makes it to the other side, and I watch as a man in a suit touches his arm. Pride is expensive in San Francisco. Selling a little to survive. Selling a little more to get comfortable. I want to run after him and buy him coffee, but now he is busy, and besides, I don’t have that luxury. The luxury of trust, of friendship, of human contact has all but been abolished in this plague year. The Boys of Geary have me pulling myself up out of sadness by my bootstraps again.

I barely make it up the alley and hit Post at a swift speed-walk. A barely covered man has migrated onto Post with his cardboard box. A teeshirt forms a basic loin cloth. Wasted beneath his muscles. Glowing with pharmaceutical harm, he is standing in the center of the road arranging the flaps of the box, standing back, yowling at the wrongness of it and then tearing at the thick paper once more.

Both he and the box are shredded. Geary is down there, I want to say but nobody taps a velociraptor on the shoulder, not even me. Post suits him fine, on second thoughts, Post in it’s transitory beauty as it becomes Nob Hill cool. If someone doesn’t like it they will tell him soon enough.

Civilians are walking beside me now, headed to the hospital or ‘Joes cross the road a ways. Fortune has deserted the Cardboard Box Man, and they fear the loss is contagious. A wide berth is given. I give him the same courtesy, even if it seems like the space between him and others is infuriating him. The box is tricking him. It looks like a dastardly operation involving chalk and origami.

I can’t help but wonder what he was trying to accomplish and if he even knew himself. The Boys of Geary don’t need a reason, it is always the season of the witch in these parts. The rent-boy-dorothy can’t click his heels together three times and get anywhere good, not today, not now. It is a wicked wind which blows from the west to the east, a wicked wind which knows no bounds to it’s ruin.

Those wings are not wings to fly. No one flies out of the TL, they run, they flee, they swim the gutters, they climb, they ant-crawl slowly… but there ain’t no wings downtown. The only flying is done on the ground, that is only flying permittable in this part of town. They have all fallen through the cracks, and it is a long way out of fifty square blocks, a lifetime of walking. A lifetime of hauling. I am not sure it can be done. I am going to try anyway.

The Geary Street Boys set fire to tents and howl as the sirens wail sending rescue towards them. The Geary Street Boys have nothing left for sale, and everything they can find is left to rent by the minute. No one round here has an hour they can bank on. The Geary Street Boys carry their burdens on their backs. The Geary Street Boys live on the wrong side of their tracks. I realize I am panting into my mask as I make it onto Polk, walking much too fast, the adrenaline and the fear pushing me forwards.
I have to pull the mask clear of my nose and mouth to gulp in the downtown muck. You gotta breathe, even if all there is left to draw in is made out of dust, and grime, sold sex and other people’s sin. You gotta breathe, even if you don’t care for the taste or the smell. You gotta breathe while there are stories from Geary Street left, even if you are renting them by the second, and disappearing by the hour.
California’s Table
I don’t like shopping on California, with its fifty dollar king crab legs and filleted cuts of meat that litter the sidewalks, that blow round the alleys, that sleep in tents, in boxes and pallets.

I don’t like shopping on California for sweet potatoes and half baked ideas, while flocks of children grub amongst the heirloom tomatoes and men squeeze the juice out of peaches to see if they are yet ripe, and once deciding they are not, discard them on floors to sit amongst piles of half-rejected bullet-hard avocados.

Old men, their freshness past, form canonical priestly processions shoving women and children away from the bread, whilst scattering profane platitudes; beautified filling carts with two dollar wine to ease their withered hearts.

I don’t like shopping on California with it’s stores that hold pretensions and aspirations, in this city where desperation grows by the hour, blossoms like a flower in a pile of excrement.

Queenly impressing their Empire before them, women who live further up California, or on Lombard or Steiner, stately stand before the fish counter, beholding the fruits of the sea, the cans of tuna standing between them and me, they declare I am in their way, they are San Franciscan royalty, and the people who serve are proud to be part of such a clean machine, an American dream.

They look like they resent having to take my money, my paltry sum, my exchange of quarters for a carton of rice noodle ramen. I left the tuna behind: it was too much hassle to navigate the aisles of Empresses and their snarling sly shark smiles.

Wan faced boys, lithe and long, couple up, buying seemingly only non dairy creamer and Columbian coffee beans, whole, not ground. By the watermelons they bend down. By the discounted pork chops they kneel and cry. Fiji water is in their washpot, and though I think avocados are beyond nationality, they always choose Mexican over Israeli, no matter how creamy and ripe and softly perfect the product.

I get fixed in a gimlet eye by a tall guy in Balenciaga’s and Versace who is standing holding a single gladioli leaning against the communal recycle can, “six feet!” he screeches looming irate. I put my cardboard into the can, call him a twat and call it a day. He is left, head tilted, salty eyed, still yelling at anyone near that his boundaries are clear. Softer than a hothouse tomato, the brain of a cabbage, how can a vegetable man ruin my day?

Down in Filmore the women pray over perfect kabocha and two legged daikon, tastebud nostalgia, a cultural lexicon wrought in soup and mounds of pickled plums. The things I do for cotton candy grapes and rice noodles, soft and spoilt, lazy walk to the brighter side of town where I do not belong.

Someone fed the pigeons again, dirty hordes of them descending, divebombing, no trees to roost in. The America I lost and loved in is somewhere out there still, with it’s stores full of kraft mac and cheese, garlic bread, texas toast and freezer cabinets full of health draining things that should not be eaten in any quantity. It is out there with it’s rusted out cars in neat driveways, trees and cows, horses – it might as well be Mars! Nothing outside the city exists anymore. Not the blue house in the eastern part and the oak tree that dwarfed me. Not the camper or the truck, not the road or the streak of cruel bad luck. Not the 5, or the coastal highway, not the buffalo nor the wild turkey. The ghosts of the past blink by in my rear view mirror, waving softly. Bags of weed. Bottles of liquor. Sea sand days, and somebody’s finger was always on the trigger of destruction.
The city breathes on in fits and starts, living and dying by feet and yards, feasting and fasting in a modest pulsing of life lived in concrete and street cars.

I don’t like shopping on California, with it’s fifty dollar crab legs and the meat of the city that sleeps by the store front doors.

The Polk(A)

Glitter-queens are celebrating by the cathedral, extravagantly head-dressed, platformed shoed, ru paul-ed and uniformed in layers of souffle viscose and stiff shiny sharp sequined silver, bored out loud, gorgeously proud, hassling the traffic and doing the careful stomp of people in heels that are too high everywhere. Everywhere but here. Nervous hospital waiters, sitting on walls, bedecked in sticky badges that declare them “visitors” not stayers or intruders. Pinched faces, confused and bewildered at how this could have happened, shaking heads, bleary eyed and waiting on a miracle. Perhaps the Glitter-queens have some answers: life looks brighter just up the road.

Dog pushers take walks with their dogs, sad eyes staring safely out of strollers, paws safe from the human shit, the glass and the needles, pampered and protected, pushed by wan faced women with too much botox and pilates bodies. They are about my age, but look uncannily younger, smoother, flat lakes on a windless day: I am not jealous, just curious. They will live longer than me, I think. So will their dogs. My lakes are whipped up wild and foamy. My lakes are free, I suspect theirs cost a pretty penny.

A delicate girl in her late teens stands opposite me over the crossing. We regard each other quietly. I notice she is crying, holding her skateboard vertically, a wall of protection, a weapon, a means of escape. I think I need a skateboard, then come to my senses remembering the hills and my crumbling bones. How I miss being young! I inhabit the preserve of the older woman, and I do not like it. My youth was my treasure, my treasure to be squandered as I saw fit, and I burnt it up wildly. I wrung the juice out of it, like those glassy women and their kale shots, every last green drop, I drank it dry.

Walgreens hit again, shopping cart trip again, sweaters on the sidewalk, passed out, hip digging into sidewalk strip again, face against someone else’s dirt, we drift away.

Ras el Hanout. Za’atar. Turmeric, coriander seeds and fenugreek. My fingers trip over small boxes with tiny envelopes of spice. Chervil and nutmeg. Grains of paradise and saffron. Garlic and basil and common sage. This place smells like dried fish and baby sick. I want to dip my hands in the tub of tiny anchovies and stuff them into my mouth, heads and all! You never get over Asia, it inhabits your soul.

We have to go to a whiter shop. I have a taste for paleo-puffs. They are a yeasty umami mess. I am ashamed of my lack of self control – I could never be a dog pusher, or a static bike peddler. I remain softly slim, my stomach not absorbing nutrients from food, I ruined it years ago. The cashier in the place that sells grotesque things like puffs made of cassava, is performing neurotique. They can take me over here. The dishwashing liquid isn’t full enough. They haven’t had a good day. It is GOING. It could be worse. That’s all! They snap. I take my shopping and get out of their splash zone. That is quite enough for today. In my old age I do not tolerate other’s bullshit because I think I have to. I have nothing left to waste on other people I did not create.

Going down Polk the other way the signs on the barriers read detour this way in black spray paint next to the word Batman. And ‘Mora.’ I wonder what happened to Mora to get her name in black spray paint on a barrier on Van Ness. A man in a suit looks out of place in this city of slacks and jeans and Californian relaxed chic. He looks nervous as he crosses the street to the wrong side of the road. I don’t blame him. The Bank of America mocks him, solidly sitting containing all the secrets of the known world. He spits on the ground and wipes his mouth, mask hanging hang dog from one ear. I feel a rush of pity. He is going out of fashion. He is out of time. I wonder if he can find who he is under the suit. Maybe he is Batman, I think and I walk on by as he baulks at the oncoming traffic pushed close to traffic by road works that are never worked on.

There are whole stories in the messes on the streets. Blood splatters just before the flower shop that is run by a woman who should always have been running a flower shop, she is sweet and flowerly, she takes photos of her blooms and gently chides a man who I presume is her husband. He would be lost without her chiding. The blood drips into a pile of smashed discarded taki chips, their red hot powder mocking the sidewalk. How did this happen, I think. How did someone start bleeding by the flower shop and their blood just stop mingling with some imported hot pepper chips? Did they cut themselves on sharp word that escaped from the florist’s mouth, and drop their chips while trying to stem the flow? I hop over the Great Turd of Polk Street and go on down the road.

The Great Turd of Polk Street. This emission has sprayed itself up the roadworks sign, it has been there for weeks. I keep wondering when it will decompose or we will get enough rain to wash it away. I am starting to think it is permanent, fuck knows what the expeller was eating. Superglue and smack? Fiber pebbles and velcro? I think Polk has put these roadworks and barriers here to shut out Civic Center and Tenderloin travellers, artfully spraying Jackson Pollock-like concrete shite from an all-seeing anus-evil eye to ward off the crack-zombies and the nodders, the tent sleepers and the tweakers.

A single green pea. A scrap of yellow plastic from a child’s toy, a single shoe, a rat-chewed blanket, a neon bag full of human shit, a plunger from a spike, later the barrel..but no spike itself. That is hiding, reading to jam itself into an unsuspecting foot. I see these feet on the streets of San Francisco. Birkenstocked and slidered. Toes vulnerable and painted, or hairy and wiggling, like worms for the birds, ready to slide into a pile of shit, or a piece of glass, or get rubbed out on a hill, or toe jammed into the needle of Sydney the junkie who might live on Fourth if he cared to.

Blood and bird shit. Brazilian waxes and nail kits, wheels and knickknacks and shoes. MDMA painted outside a clothes shop, burst balloons and chalk lines outside places where they used to cut hair and might once again, blankets covering and hands holding, Polk Street passes me by.

I think I want to live in Fillmore, where the pigeons can’t hear me cry fowl things!

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