Nameless Street, San Francisco
Bless this nameless street
Its drizzle-watered window boxes
Its gay men tending tiny gardens and walking bulldogs
Determined to carry on unaffected by traffic, tourists and me.
Why does the misted air charm
these pastel houses?
Why does the rusted-rose of five o’clock December
Make every porch light and front window shimmer?
Every bundled homecoming walker a romantic figure?
Every shopgirl carrying flowers to her flat
An impressionist painting?
I think it is me, growing old
and losing my flint.
Finally succumbing to wistfulness from the loss that claims us all.
I no longer dream, but see in ordinary things what I remember longing for
When dreams were still more plentiful than tears.
Or perhaps it really is just
this nameless street.
Singing a thrumming, human song
I’ve never noticed before today.
From your big, free, beautiful flight
Arrow straight and jet high
You would stoop at night to honor our farm pond
Like dignitaries from an exotic, foreign land.
Now you hapless stand
Abandoned to handless begging
Homeless at the city park, messing the putting green
Lunging at cigarette butts and reminding me
Of the places I came from and have chosen
And what I have kept of what was once
The big, free, beautiful flyway
Of my heart.
A Selfless Act
The pent-up sailors took Market Street
From warships months at sea
And the women from the warehouses
Poured out to their victory.
And my mother met my father
Fate sealed there and then
Youth, hope and maybe love
That would not visit them again.
And I, the child that came too soon,
Am the reason they became
A thousand tears called family
That tried, and failed, and blamed.
And I tell their Polaroid smiles it's only
Pealing bells make your hearts swirl,
Back to Buffalo, homesick boy.
Back to work, you young sweet girl.
Nameless Street was the result of a long walk through San Francisco on an evening after I had a complete physical exam at the UCSF medical center. I was feeling old and mortal and uncertain, which is a good time to write poetry.
Canada Geese was inspired by a vivid memory of my mother's excitement when she looked out the window and saw Canada Geese for the first time, swimming in our farm pond in Lodi, California, around 1970. Canada geese have now become a local blight, taking over the parks and golf courses. The irony has lived within me and I wanted to compare it to the way many dreams of our youth become blighted and lost as we grow older.
A Selfless Act was inspired by thinking about my parents' story. They met when my dad came off one of the navy ships that poured into San Francisco after WWII amid wild celebration and optimism. I juxtaposed this against the profoundly unhappy marriage they suffered through, and realized that their entire life might have been a mistake borne of the blindness visited on them by the rapturous moment when they met.
Bio: I'm primarily a songwriter, having won several awards (West Coast International Songwriting Grand Prize, Kerrville New Folk; Napa Valley Emerging Artists) and placed songs in several TV shows and movies. I perform regularly with my band, Calaveras (www.calaverassongs.com). My poetry seems to be driven by the rhythms and currents of music too. In spite, or because, of my Harvard law school education and legal career, I have an inordinate need to explore the soul, perhaps to assure myself I have not yet lost it.