Gotera Door
The Front Door
by Vince Gotera

was a surfboard speeding forward through the ’60s
except when it slammed, stopping time like granite
if not for the glass pane in the door, which let in
San Francisco’s lights, the fog like gray cotton,
screeching brakes, my friend Hart’s house across
Parnassus St. But the door didn’t stop time. Mom
came in, said, Hart is dead, Vin. Sorry to tell you.
The night before, running from the police, Hart
had driven off a cliff at Land’s End. A joyride
with a friend. Holy fuck. I could have stopped it
when I was on the N Judah streetcar a month before
and saw Hart with a coat hanger breaking into a VW.
I could have got off, said, What are you up to, Hart?
C’mon, give it a break, buddy. Let’s go get a coke.
But the moment was past. The N Judah kept on,
the steel wheels skirling on the tracks, twisting time
into ribbons. I imagined Hart would stop stealing cars,
throw down the screwdriver. But that time, I didn’t
get off the streetcar and confront my friend. There was
always time. Some time I’ll do it, I’ll say to Hart,
Just stop, will ya? But that future day was stillborn.
The taste of silver on the eyes, 9-volt batteries
on the tongue, fingertips on the hot iron smelling
like burnt toast. That logic was no damn logic. Nada.
The KFRC record on my dresser, that album I had
borrowed from Hart last year, said, What you gonna
do now, chickenheart? I pictured myself at that cliff
where Hart died, spinning that borrowed record into
the sunset air, where it would sail forever, surfing
to heaven and the future years Hart would never have.
But I didn’t do that. I didn’t get off that streetcar.
Moment past. Surfboard crashed. Front door closed.

PHOTO CREDIT: Google Maps — 62 Parnassus St., San Francisco, California, USA, December 2013.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is based on an actual event I have tried to write about for probably 30 years. But I’ve never been able to carry it off. Using the idea of a front door as an organizing principle broke that block. Thank you! I have not lived in that house for almost 50 years, but it looks the same, except for the stoop that was brick red. The door itself, with its large glass pane, is identical.

Gotera Headshot

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vince Gotera is a Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, where he served as editor of the North American Review (2000-2016). He was also editor of Star*Line, the print journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (2017-2020). His poetry collections include Dragonfly, Ghost Wars, Fighting Kite, The Coolest Month, and the upcoming Pacific Crossing. Recent poems appeared in the journals Abyss & Apex, Altered Reality Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Dreams & Nightmares, Ekphrastic Review, Philippines Graphic (Philippines), Rosebud, Stone Canoe, and the anthologies Multiverse (UK) and Hay(na)ku 15. Gotera blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar