Monday, January 2, 2012

Two Places

Louisiana, home of a thousand Family Dollar stores
and cotton farms planted with corn for ethanol
I think of you as I return to Oakland,
report for jury duty with a hundred
others waiting to be screened for weapons,
swiping smart phones as if they could save us.
Louisiana, camouflaged in brown leaves
on a breast pocket of lottery tickets and cigarettes.
Another weekend I drive to my house,
pass a coral reef that covers the hills of San Francisco,
in window panes of white waves,
I'm lost in a place between two places
where fresh produce arrives from WalMart
and everyone can be a po'boy at the gas station.
Louisiana,  my hand shimmers in your bayou,
in the Ouachita River, where grandmothers
mounded themselves like almonds
along barges of earth.
A bay and a cypress and the word hosanna.
We open doors in two places.
Our hearts meet in one place.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The 99% in Crossett, Arkansas

When you're in the belly of the monster
You don't consider if your lipgloss is sticky
Or if your hair spray is crunchy
Or how Steve Jobs, if he found himself in the same situation,
Would've connected the dots.
Even when distraction and evil influence rule the day,
And the EPA is scheduled to show up at the ash pit where you eat your lunch,
And you know that the company the contractors you work for have fungled everything,
Financial titans who threaten to eat their own children,
Who have tempted the spawning multitudes with their own extinction, 
In the great red light of the world's afternoon, inside yourself
There's a quick change artist 
Who can do things accidentally on purpose,
You take a leak on the opposite side of the pond,
Hang your goggles from a side-view mirror,
Pray to gods of the Internet and magicians of High Hogwarts,
This better turn out good.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blood Thinner

Owner of the house. Senile. A hospice nurse milks the catheter. Packs ice cubes into his stomach pours a cool one. He starts drinking a Blood Thinner With Water. In the meantime, tenants write out checks to Malthus. A realtor for short sales and foreclosures. Karrena is a single mom who collects rent for the house and has two kids. A fish tank bubbles in every room.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Just One More Thing: For Steve Jobs

The lawn was trampled to mud on a rainy day when the skies appropriately opened up and poured forth unseasonal rain throughout the Bay Area; people were taking pictures with their iPhones, speaking quietly, some crying, visually moved by the death of a brilliant innovator who meant so many things to so many.

I visited 1 Infinite Loop today to see the shrine gathering there for Steve Jobs, Flowers, candles, pumpkins with writing, pictures, boxes of iPads and iPhones, free organic apples that are in the cafeteria every day for employees to take from large galvanized buckets to place on trays along with their lunch or dinner.  The memorial included many Apples with a bite removed, all of us Eve in search of knowledge. 

I work at Apple as a long-term contractor in a group that earlier in the week was getting ready for the launch of the latest “black box” project. Vaguely, like many I assumed it was about introducing the iPhone 5 to the world. The media decried the substitution of a more powerful iPhone 4S for the really big announcement. Nice phone, but so what?

The next day I was notified by my group not to drive down to Cupertino from Oakland because the area was swarming with police officers and SWAT team members who were hunting Shareef Allman. Allman had gone on a rampage following a safety meeting at a local quarry, and had killed three people and wounded six, a single father whom all his neighbors and friends said hated violence and produced a local cable show about conflict resolution.

Fast forward to the afternoon when I received the email from the manager of our group, “This is a sad day for Apple…”

I fell back down on my couch. It was a moment in my life similar to the time when I saw scribbled on a blackboard, “President Kennedy has been shot.” While everyone knew that Steve was seriously ill and  had stepped down as CEO in August, the news hit me in the gut.

This is was a person of my generation, someone whom I as far as I could tell, had helped to shape the idealism and revolutionary spirit of the sixties with his own sense of purpose. I saw so many who had worked toward peace and justice in the civil rights and anti-war movement, sign on to a new cause that offered communication and a collective ethic as opposed to the stultifying hierarchy that had held this country in a top-down grip. This was “counter-culture.”

Jobs understood that creativity comes from people working together. He helped to foster that environment.

It took me years to be able to work at Apple.  Thank you, Steve.  For everything.