Walking home from dinner
Gusts blasting the maples and chestnuts
We might see a burst
Of lightning
And see a flash
Of a tabby scurrying across the street

– – –

(summer night after another amazing dinner at Accanto, etc etc)

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categories poetry


Not the movie…

I had to read Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Her because Ferlinghetti is still alive. Ferlinghetti who Kerouac called Smiler in Big Sur and insisted that even Smiler would die someday. Kerouac in the ground nearly fifty years now and Smiler still alive, still of this world.

Ferlinghetti’s Her which Kerouac wrote “…is very good, will surprise lotta people, is strange long thinlegged shadow Paris sidewalk dream of birds” – and how drunk was Jack when he wrote that?

Her starts – are you ready? It starts “I was bearing a white phallus through the wood of the world, I was looking for a place to plunge it, a place to surrender it.”

How can you resist that?

Also Lawrence Ferlinghetti is still alive. Ninety-five. I’ve never met him. Seen him several times in North Beach. Once at City Lights. Once at a poetry reading in the park. Didn’t have the courage / guts / instinct to go up and say something witty and shake his hand.

Ferlinghetti is 95.

I’d better get on it…

Summer In The Back Yard

Sleeping late on swaddled mornings
analogue in the fog, just green
dream of cypresses and lines
of pines in sagebrush hills
– “Can’t keep a garden here”
mom salting snails and slugs
dirt clod back yard, artichoke’s all thorns
fox tails and cat thistles on the bulkhead
dogs yelping around a mole mound –

playing the game.
baseball bat and the heavy ball
hit it high as seven year old arms can handle
run under that big ball, catch it and it’s an out
it drops and it’s where it drops:
single double triple or homer
hit it too far’s an out –
declaring tables in College Ruled
LA Olympics on the cover
a lineup card, way of keeping score
collecting data on fog swaddled mornings
part Davy, part Coleridge, part Kerouac
tabby Muffin Man looking on
wanted to Tweet the final score
but you couldn’t hear a Tweet
through the fog, summer 1984
in the back yard.

Ways Portland Is In Summer

Morning. Morning for the thirteenth thousandth time, or more. Bird song and light through the window, burning off the fog of sleep. “Another day!” – the shouting in the head fires the legs, fires the arms, fires the heart. 5:47 on the clock. But what’s another hour in bed when there’s so much waiting?

Pull ups in the park. Remember, boy, Jack Lalanne did this at 3:30 every morning.. So get up on that bar and pull. Three sets of eight today. Tomorrow you’re doing three sets of nine. Sun on your back, breeze in your face. Burning on the hands, you’re still building chalices.

Run across the field. As fast as you can. Remembering hips, remembering ankles, remembering knees. And how someday in rickety grey, this will seem like the sweetest unattainable thing – just to run. As fast as I can.

Backpackers. Staying at the youth hostel or not; browsing the boutiques on Hawthorne or playing guitar on the sidewalk in front of the vintage shops. Aussies on holidays or traveller kids with their pit bulls.

Shower. Pure of cool water shower and no need for the heater. Dressing without shivering. Walking to the coffee shop without jackets.

Me telling stories over coffee: “Reminds me of the time I picked up this couple and their pities and they all four of them shoved into the back seat of my Bimmer, I rode ’em all the way from Eureka to Grants Pass. Nicest kids just looking for work and trying to stay out of trouble and stay lovey-dove with each other and keep the dogs fed.”

Macchiato in the morning on Hawthorne. Hacking. Named my commit something funny, one of the other developers chats LOL. Paul Graham: Hackers and Painters is the name of the book. Perfect cup of coffee. Wish there was a way to make each sip last and last. Gang of guys comes in wearing France kits. World Cup. On their way to the soccer bar, 4-4-2. More people come in and it’s time to leave. Sun morning, those crows are already at it when we get home.

Work. Work in the office where it’s cool and dark thanks to the Japanese Maple. Work with the breeze coming through the window. The neighbor kids are playing basketball again. I’d go take them to school, but they have the hoop at nine feet-something and it messes up my shot.

What do you work on? How do you work? What is work? If you’re not delighting someone, are you working or just putzing around? The greatest gift we have in 2014 is that you can be connected to the end result of your work. It’s Marx. Marx’s dream. Realized in a crazily different way. Only nobody realizes it. And it’s probably for the better.

Working and hacking and the ways we express our ideas in code. “I’m a code poet” she used to say, but what the hell does that mean? What is a poet? Can I call myself a poet if I write poems that delight the hell out of me but not one sole soul else?

Working and the need to be physical. Tight back and rusty knees, all the things that happen when you sit all day for a living. Get up, go the deck. Squat. Cat and dog. Breathe. Oh yeah – the world. Not just a world external to the code base. THE world.

Late afternoon. Wrapping up the day. Putting a proper end to things. A denouement. So much day left. Like a peach, sweet and just half eaten. She texts, she’s off early, we’re meeting for happy hour.

A spot at the end of the long bar. Straightening up, getting ready for the crowd, what’ll you have. A dozen oysters from New Zealand, “They’re in season now”. Their winter. Twelve little shells of heaven from an upside down world.

Everyone on Division St. Me: “Every time I go away for two weeks, I come home and someplace new has opened”. Couples and families. Kids in highchairs strewing popcorn all over the floor at Sunshine Tavern. A mid-70s lady in a sharp suit in at Ava Genes, bent over a plate – “That’s my gramma, that’s how she was still going to lunch in her 70s with her cronies!”

Let’s go in. A line, a milling about. Sun dresses, Polos and shorts. Everyone talking, everyone nervous, everyone checking phones.

“We’re full, but we serve the full menu at the bar” – better anyway. We can sit next to each other on the high stools. Easier to touch, easier to offer each other bites. Easier to talk. You can face the bar or you can face me. Some conversations work better one way and some work better the other. With a cocktail in one hand, anything seems possible. Even likely.

Slow stroll home. Walking down the middle of the street, you and I and a kit kat who wants to follow. Dusk coming on all orange and indigo and the green tree canopy. “Your ice cream is dripping. Your ice cream is dripping!” – it’s cause it’s a double scoop.

Smoking a cigarillo on the porch. Where are all the cigarettes and cigars I’ve smoked? Each seems like a distinct feature of my life. Winter cigars smoked in Seattle snows. Spring cigarettes in Paris. Summer smokes in San Diego, in Palo Alto, in Portland. Smelling my fingers, tobacco, and again after running my hand through the lavender.

The cups of coffee I’ve had. Every macchiato. Every word I’ve written over macchiatos. Every meditation I’ve enjoyed in the buzzy fog of coffee, cigarillos, cocktails, water, air, summer. Every breath.

Look up. The stars are coming out…