Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I want to out-run the clock, look up from my book, see
there’s 10 minutes to throw on a pair of jeans and a sweater,
grab car keys from the dining room table and swing the laptop
over my shoulder. Hi-ho I keep on going.
This morning I had two cups of coffee, watched the news,
spoke with my boyfriend from six states away and finished reading
the newspaper. Time to tap dance on the kitchen tile,
unscrew energy efficient lightbulbs and note what kind of hybrid bird
flies out before I grab the laptop.
Inside the car like an otter beneath a hood of water watching
the sky pull itself into threads of orange taffy, my mind backstrokes
to Chicago and the punch press factory
where I met Johnnie with mahogany skin and straightened hair
and Eola from New Orleans who said:
Life's like powder on a powder puff, just ready to blow off,
when a lugging machine punched a hole through my finger
and the foreman delivered me to the hospital where I spent the evening
filling out worker's compensation forms and didn’t make my quota;
something about the thinness of the sky today,
how an airplane balances on a diagonal wire of exhaust,
or the way Chow Yun Fat did in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,
walking on tree tops, which is a good trick if you know how to do it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Charon Speaks to Psyche

I lived in shadow
along the edge of wet stairs,
watched stone lose out
to the incursion of lapping insistence,
a place where I gathered myself, a sensation
of cold and sometimes not so cold, even warm
as sun bullied its way through iron railings.

Which way? I heard myself ask,
no longer a barnacle stationed for eternity
at some breathing crack
I was never going to leave.

I grew up as the Gatekeeper,
the one who ferries shadows across the chasm,
back and forth I watched men and women,
lips drawn into a horizon as they dredged fear
from a bucket of cold blood, while I, 
who knew the water like the back of my hand,
sang a dirge and understood how some things can only be faced.

Never have I spoken until you bordered my craft,
etching rivulets with your finger across the saw-toothed waves,
consumed by a hope that  toys with us all and makes fools famous.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ode to Oaktown

I wired my sorrows into Klieg lights and let them shine all over Oakland,
city of Black Panthers and Hells Angels and General Strikes,
driving from the Bronx in a green Toyota Corolla searching.

Was it freedom, or a film I wanted to make something of myself,
took refuge in Oakland's Lake Merritt,  caught breadcrumbs and fish,
a wayfarer dressed in boots and dreams of Fifth Avenue Peace Parades

to a West Coast of two-story buildings and pastel houses
and summers where the sun did not bother to get up until noon.
Okay, I said to myself, you have to begin somewhere.  That was my beginning.

Oakland Raiders won the SuperBowl.
I sailed a stroller around Lake Merritt and through her Garden Center,
past houses with calla lillies that hugged grey gas meters

even though they were ugly. Oakland took off her clothes slowly
like a woman who wants to know she is loved. I followed her trail in Joaquin Miller
filled with monkey flowers and second growth redwoods,

nuggets of neighborhoods and librarians, the Oakland Museum
surrounded by a moat of golden koi where children entered into culture,
art, and people who hung on walls together.

Let me park my car one last time and walk to the Paramount,
remember old hotels and faded curtains stuck on brass rings,
where restaurants and condos have become the hope of a business community

that wishes for homicides to fade like fog,
a place I've come to know with gunshots and fireworks,
the way my history has been pressed into a new release.

City of Oakland
Lake Merritt