Sunday, October 23, 2011

To the End of Haight

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California
October 2, 2011; revised June 15, 2014

It would be wrong, of course, 
to hike up Haight in too new 
tie dye, made in Haiti, hauled 
to Georgia, bought off 'Hippies' 
costume rack, my own creation 
(purple bled with golden high-
lights) gone to rags too long 

I caught the Summer of Love 
by grace of A.M. rockin' radio 
while sweating construction 
to finance my physics, and fantasized 
Love-Ins were all I could muster 
that innocent summer in North 

Now here in Haight I haunt the places 
free range hippies propagated 
seeking *Authenticity* or failing 
that, a clever tee to take back 
home with burning words declaring 
what it is we were, just what we 
wanted life to hold, what never was 
but still might be, in understated 

From off the other side of Haight 
persistent as the backed-up traffic 
bold, phlegmatic yogi laughs  
though not in mirth, but merely 
practice. Blocks from fervor 
gentry groom their comely rows 
of reclaimed homes, each worth 
more than all the flowers worn by 
hippies in the Haight back in the 

With knowing smiles and narrowed 
eyes, we've moved beyond the na├»ve 
wise who fought for justice with those 
flowers, summoned peace by sharing 
song. Go gentle, people, after all 
it’s every generation’s fate to re-enact 
the Fall. Last call before we’re ushered 

At the end of Haight the 'Golden Arches' 
sits across from Whole Food Market 
hard by parkland, pulsing, pulsing 
tribal drums beat about the edge of awareness 
from somewhere deep within the great long golden park 
that stretches out to the end of America  
where sea fog gathers cleansing chill 
close underground raw forces build 
and the late day breeze drifts so gently 
about my face, I cannot say which way 
it blows. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Afternoon Joe

Athens, Georgia
October 10, 2011; revised December 13, 2013

You smile into a steaming cup 
in search of grounds and gracious lines 
to share with he in painter’s cap
who holds up signs by traffic stops 
where hand-drawn letters spell the barter, 
"work for food," but what he offers
one more try for wary drivers – 
multiply the fish and loaves
within the gap from red to green. 
But eyes averted never see 
the narrow Galilean path 
that stretches off another way
beyond the light that guides the flow 
from bank to drugs to Chick-fil-A 
and on to homes to huddle nights 
encased in husks of wood and cheer, 
which fortify a life’s veneer
in hoarded warmth

                                   but those like Joe
spend hours in the public square
and nurse their warmth from cardboard
cups – a Big Joe buys an afternoon
of comfort on a well-used couch
amidst assorted Macs and pads
and textbooks cracked by pert coeds
in gym shorts, flip-flops, painted toes
and funky guys in baggy clothes,
by nursing interns sporting scrubs
and midlife strivers buttoned up,
a young instructor talking math
by Chinese couples lugging packs
a working mother, child in tow –
they come and go and barely note
an old man whiling time alone
and gentle souls at rest, like Joe

who on a warm midafternoon
could tell you how to weather cold 
on cruel nights that numb the soul, 
when howling Arctic winter lows 
pile snow on sagging canvas homes, 
the weak won’t make the morning call 
in trembling walls of flesh and fabric;
battered down, resigned to die, 
the voice of God 

       commands we rise
       and manufacture right
       on ice, from slush
       a snowman shrine to life
       submerging fear
       in warmth of play
       through bitter night
       to brittle day

                                  and yes I too
I mean to say have felt my heart so
strangely warmed behind my silent
public smile my words are snowmen
guarding night and creeping numbness
in my life,  but first retreat to resupply
the cardboard warmth to ease
the ties of mid-day neighbors, even
Joe who, unobtrusive, slipped away
somewhere along the ancient path
to find a home beneath the sky.