Erasure in Hand

I am coming as close

to the line as I can

without touching it

yet. I continue to stretch,

ostrich neck, giraffe.

I ponder the line.

It looks like The End.

Of course there is the other side,

then the questions.

Shall I retreat from the world

or live on this rough bed

of dreams?

The line is firm,

never wavering, ineffable.

There is no way to hedge.

But I nudge up to it

knowing I have to

witness the discipline

of its form, marvel

at the clear edge

I would have to cross.


Star of Night

The universe is

a black star

bursting through pines.


the trees rise

bringing the edge of the world

to meet heaven

where the still, jagged

outline of night

rests in rays of ebony

between the needles.

Flecks of diamonds

scatter overhead,

tiny ornaments

on holy cloth, flung

through eternity

by the hands that hold us.


Live at Spec's  

The red neon FORTUNE TELLER sign

glows over Colombus Street. Wednesday night,

men in suits from the office,

ladies in their high heels head up

past Spec's, past the bench out front

in Adler Museum's alley across from City Lights

in SF. I'm hanging around.

A guy in three black coats walks up

shaking a cup in my face. A man

with a violin wanders with his solo

through the traffic and the whole bar

sings Happy Birthday, locals revolving

in and out for a smoke

as evening hums but it's early,

sun spills between the buildings.

At dusk the poets come out.


It's not romantic, it's common,

in the blood, in late night ink,

in a tribe's way to gather

for fire, fire water, the dance

across the keyboard, for the blues,

for the crowded round table,

for the talk. Inside the dark door

fifteen flags hang like tired countries

tacked to the ceiling, reflected

in the dusty glass dreams framed

for a flirt with memory, mementos

of what was and what still happens.

"Poetry night," says a woman and they come

with cardboard plates of take-out food

and bags of books to order wine.

There's time for nothing else.


Way in back the old Asian artist

pulls his braided beard and dips

into the palette, he and his tools

hunched over a sign, brushes in glasses

and glasses of brandy or whiskey and water

set right on the board: SPEC'S it says.

Mixing pigment in TV dinner trays

he smiles at the letters, and the word is out

all over the table: flyers, invitations, readings.

I don't know these people but they tell me

to come into the history on these walls:

the poets, the sailors, the girls,

fishing weights, a football hung by a string,

news clippings, boat lamps, red, green

all in the maze of the Twelve Adler Mystery

mapped out. O, the hot dates.


Shots of a bar long gone.

The piano player slides on in, pours himself

over the ivory, boogey explodes the shadows,

someone in line for the bathroom is clapping,

comrades head to head discussing

the neighborhood, poetry and politics.

The people: guys in ranger hats,

top hats, secret agents, Hawaiian shirts,

starched shirts, women who can't be stopped,

the poets and the jazz howling.

Only lovers at this table,

sparks singe the backlit backbar

as the bartender paces herself,

her fingers pulse with the ice

granting wishes, an angel

anointing the house of Spec.


For Spec's 80th birthday - May 2010

Spec's, North Beach, SF



World News

A motel room in India

is a motel room in America.

Door locked, mirrors smudged,

beds made as a TV replays the world

flashing frenzied streets,

glint of high-rise windows

above the beggars,

crowded hospital halls, skinny models,

flooding fields, explosions, courtrooms

full of men in suits and ties and confusion.

A commercial break, a psychotic break –

face cream, hair gel, blue jeans, cell phones.

Coming up next: the homeless in Mumbai,

the homeless in New Orleans.

India bleaches her skin.

America wants a tan.

written in Ernakulum, South India


A Question for Reincarnation

When I was a man

I didn't know how it would be 

to live as a woman,

the mind inside her body

a foreign country, different skin

and mounds as round as hills

and milk, how it felt to give birth

from the womb of a woman,

to be filled with the flesh of a man

and how she comes, elusive as bones

inside her thrilling skin.

I didn't remember my previous names

as a woman

or how, as a man, I called to her

and held the gentle hands

that pulled me into her arms.

How many times have I left her

to want her again?