Archives for posts with tag: San Francisco

Operators on Left in New Brown and Maroon Uniform Next to Operator on Right in Old Blue Uniform with Trolley Coach at Presidio Yard | April 23, 1968

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Free Ride
by Vince Gotera

As a kid in San Francisco, waiting for a bus,
in morning fog, to go to school, I would see
the 6 Masonic appear magically out of what
was essentially a deep, soft cloud resting

on the earth. The bus would shoulder its way
through thick mist like a green and yellow
Triceratops, the loud hiss of its air brakes,
a breathy sound, punctuating its slow approach.

The slight ozone scent of the trolleys arcing
above would counterpoint the salty taste
of the cool air, wafting through the city
from Ocean Beach, from the Pacific.

Getting on the bus, I’d hold out the student
Muni cardboard punch card, and the driver,
big beard like a black Santa, rather than
punching out one of the 10 rides, would click

the air above my hand and card: a free trip.
He smiled huge every morning, glad to be
giving a schoolboy a boost. I bet that man
is wrangling a Muni bus up in heaven today!

PHOTOS: Top — Bus operator with trolley coach at Presidio Yard, San Francisco, April 23, 1968, SFMTA photo archive, used by permission. Bottom — A student punch card from the San Francisco Muni. Shot by Ronald Reiss, from the webpage “Transfers Tell Stories of Muni History,” Muni Diaries, June 4, 2012. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem is not about an essential worker during our quarantine time but rather an essential worker from my childhood. I used to see this bus driver every day and he was the essence of generosity in my young mind.

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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. He blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar.

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Lone Mountain Poem II
by Gerald Nicosia

Watch several shades of grey and silver clouds
Like fog but not quite touching ground
blow east over the rain-soaked greenery
of Lone Mountain
rugged promontory in the heart of San Francisco
preserved by the Catholics
for college campus
but for me a source of meditation
from my lonely apartment window
and hear those clouds say
Think of all your friends who will die
and trust that they’ll always live
in the thought of those who read
the poem about them which you write
while watching several shades of grey and silver clouds
vanishing like unanswered koans
over the spiky evergreen illusions
on a hillside of the Lone Mind.

PHOTO: The Lone Mountain campus of the University of San Francisco by David Edelman, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lone Mountain is a historic hill in west-central San Francisco, California, and the site of the private University of San Francisco (USF) – Lone Mountain Campus, which in turn was previously the San Francisco Lone Mountain College for Women. It was once the location of Lone Mountain Cemetery, a complex encompassing the Laurel Hill, Calvary, Masonic, and Odd Fellows Cemeteries. (Source: Wikipedia)

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Lone Mountain Poem II” came out of a period in my life that was both very difficult and very hopeful. I had spent four years traveling the American continent, researching and writing my biography of Jack Kerouac, Memory Babe.  Then I ended up spending another three years wrestling with publishers to see the book published intact. It had bounced from City Lights Press to Harper & Row, San Francisco, and finally to Grove Press in New York. Grove had hired an editor for Memory Babe who essentially rewrote the book, and it took the better part of a year to convince the publisher, Barney Rosset, to restore the book to its original form (a struggle in which the late Michael McClure aided immensely). I had little money to live on during those years, and found a home more often than not with my elderly, widowed mother Sylvia.  But that situation was complicated by the fact that my mom could not settle on whether she wanted to live in Chicago or California, and was continually bouncing back and forth like a Ping-Pong ball. At the time this poem was written, we had rented an apartment together on Anza Street in San Francisco, right across from Lone Mountain. There was a Catholic university and former women’s college on the other side of the mountain (really a very steep hill), but the side my second-story window looked out on was just a bleak escarpment of rock with a lot of bushes and a few brave trees rooted into it. It was 1982, in the days before cellphones, computers, texting, or the internet, and I would wait anxiously for the mail every day, in hopes of good news that Grove Press had finally agreed to publish the biography as I wanted it. To pass the time, when I wasn’t reading or writing, I’d sit in the bay window, watching the ever-changing clouds and fog that seemed to perpetually engulf the mountain. It was in one of those quiet, meditative hours that “Lone Mountain Poem II” came to me. I think that I was so tense with emotion considering the fate of this book, which had consumed so many years of my life, that I needed to see that it was also just one more cloud that would eventually vanish–like those clouds I watched vanishing over Lone Mountain–but also with the hope that it too, like the rest of our world, would leave some trace in memory.

PHOTO: San Francisco, California, in the fog by Andrei Stanescu, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After moving from Chicago to San Francisco in 1979, Gerald Nicosia became part of the post-Beat circle of poets in the Bay Area. In 1983, he became nationally known with his biography of Jack Kerouac, Memory Babe. Beginning with Lunatics, Lovers, Poets, Vets & Bargirls (1991), he also began publishing books of his own poetry, and this fall will publish the sixth volume, a collection of his poems remembering the Beats called Beat Scrapbook.  Nicosia also organized and took part in hundreds of public poetry readings in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Chicago. He has read his poetry throughout the United States and abroad, at such notable sites as Bob Holman’s Bowery Poetry Club in New York, Bob Weir’s Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California, the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, Wales, and Shakespeare & Company Bookstore in Paris. He was a close friend of the late poet and playwright Ntozake Shange and is currently working on a full critical biography of her.

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Childhood
by Vince Gotera

The famed seven hills of San Francisco are actually myriad: hills and steep slopes everywhere in the seven-mile by seven-mile square of the city. Sidewalks that are stairways. Trees and houses clinging to ground that cant seemingly at 45°, climbing upward to starry skies. Small ethnic neighborhoods sprinkled around—Russian, Italian, Chinatown, the Black community of Fillmore Street, the Hispanic Mission District, Gay Castro—and the Haight Ashbury, the diverse, integrated neighborhood where I grew up before the hippies came. Downtown, in the Financial District, when I was a teenager, they built a new peak: the Transamerica Pyramid, tallest building in the city, vaulting up to the sky like the seven hills, a new eighth wonder to rival the world-famous towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. What a marvel, what a miracle, the city was in my childhood. Don’t call it Frisco. Native-born San Franciscans just say, The City. Living now thousands of miles away in snow country, I miss my hometown. Such deep richness and largeness of culture and utter beauty. San Francisco.

steep hills, The City—
pyramid skyscraper glows
in my child mind’s eye

PHOTO: Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco, California, by Caleb George on Unsplash.  Designed by architect William Pereira, the 48-story building stands at 853 feet. When completed in 1972, it was the eighth-tallest building in the world.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Not really a traveling poem, but rather an “at-home” poem about San Francisco and especially the landmark Transamerica Pyramid.

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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. He blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar.

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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.

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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 vincegotera.blogspot.com.

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Doggie Diner, Geary and Arguello, 1969
by Vince Gotera

Out of San Francisco night, the cool fog’s
gray fingers caressing hills and houses,
in chef’s hat and bowtie, the smiling Dog,
ten-foot-tall dachshund’s head in fiberglass.

Tina, my first real high school girlfriend,
and I entered through the shiny glass doors,
holding hands, both in hippie leathers, suede
vests and floppy hats, bellbottom cords.

It smelled like hog heaven, grease-laden air,
scents of amber-gold fries and sizzling thick
burgers, the sharp tang of cole slaw vinegar.
We ordered dogs slathered in chili with pickles

and mustard. The world was copacetic. Above
the diner, the Dog slowly turned, glowing like love.

PHOTO: Doggie Diner, San Francisco (1960s).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Doggie Diner is the iconic San Francisco restaurant chain, open from 1948 to 1986. Since it’s now gone, the Doggie Diner is a pleasant, nostalgic memory for anyone who grew up in The City during those years. Each diner had a sign rotating above the building, a huge grinning dog’s head in a bow tie and chef’s hat. In the documentary Doggie Diner History, someone who lived near a Doggie Diner as a child recalls how the dog head “helped me navigate my way home, like a big doggie-shaped lighthouse.” A 1985 photo by Roy Kaltschmidt titled “Doggie Diner — San Francisco Zoo,” captures this warm sentiment.¶ In the poem, I try to convey this sunny aura along with the optimistic tenor of the ’60s, the feeling among the young that everything and anything was possible. Remember that San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district was the epicenter of the Hippie movement. Although that positive ambience pervades the poem, I allude to the Vietnam war, even though it’s not really present to the teenaged couple: I use the phrase “the world,” which was what American soldiers in Vietnam called America. There was “the ’Nam” and there was “the world,” a romanticized paradise. So, although the speaker and his girlfriend feel all is “copacetic,” it’s really not, and they will soon, very soon, grow up into a world of harsh realities. But for now, in the “now” of the poem, life is wonderful. Happiness is a spicy chili dog, and the Doggie Diner is a kind of heaven.

AUTHOR PHOTO CAPTION: My senior photo in the high school yearbook.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vince Gotera is Editor Emeritus at the North American Review and professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, where he teaches creative writing and American literature. His poetry collections include Dragonfly, Ghost Wars, Fighting Kite, and the forthcoming Pacific Crossing. Recent poems appear in The American Journal of Poetry, Eunoia Review, Star*Line, Altered Reality Magazine, Spirit’s Tincture, Crow Hollow 19, and the anthologies A Prince Tribute, Delirious: A Poetic Celebration of Prince, and Lupine Lunes, as well as the textbook Composing Poetry. Vince blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar.

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Paul Fericano is a poet, satirist, social activist and San Francisco native. His poetry and prose have appeared in publications and media outlets in the U.S. and abroad since 1971, including The Realist, The New York Quarterly, Krokodil (Moscow) and Charlie Hebdo (Paris). He is a recipient of the Prix de Voltaire (France) and the Ambrose Bierce Prize (San Francisco).

Ellaraine Lockie is a widely published and awarded author of poetry, nonfiction books and essays. Her newest collection, Love Me Tender in Midlife, has been released as an internal chapbook in IDES from Silver Birch Press. Ellaraine teaches poetry workshops, frequently judges poetry contests and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, Lilipoh.

Art Beck’s poetry and essays have appeared in a wide range of literary journals, including Alaska Quarterly, OR, Artful Dodge, and Translation Review. His several collections of poetry and poetry translations include Luxorius Opera Omnia, a Duet for Sitar and Trombone (Otis College, Seismicity Editions), which was awarded the 2013 Northern California Book award for poetry in translation.

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Paul Fericano is a San Francisco native and author of several books of poetry and satire, including The One Minute President (w/Elio Ligi / Poor Souls Press, 1984) and five collections of poems. His latest, The Hollywood Catechism (Silver Birch Press, 2015), was a National Book Award nominee. Paul is the editor of YU News Service and author of A Room With A Pew, a blog on clergy abuse issues and the healing process.

George Guida is the Brooklyn-born author of seven books, including The Pope Stories and Other Tales of Troubled Times (Bordighera Press, 2012) and four collections of poems, including his latest two, Pugilistic (WordTech Editions, 2015) and The Sleeping Gulf (Bordighera Press, 2015) George teaches literature and writing at New York City College of Technology, and co-edits 2 Bridges Review.

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birdandbeckett Paul Fericano, author of The Hollywood Catechism (Silver Birch Press, March 2015) will read from his poetry collection on Sunday, July 19th, at Bird and Beckett Books and Records, 653 Chernery Street, San Francisco. For details, visit birdbeckett.com.

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Living with Geology
by Phyllis Klein

You prayed it wouldn’t be the big one.
Is it over? Your body is tight.
You peer out at the fractured world
from under the bed that didn’t collapse.
Out the window that didn’t break
the dogs howl. The air isn’t the same,
though you can’t say why.
It is stillness after something profound.
And there they are, howling again, an aftershock.

You check yourself, no broken bones,
but your head’s shook up. You rise to see what,
besides your peace of mind, has been rattled.

You smell for gas, note broken glass, refrigerator
door ajar, a mess of food spilled on the floor.
When you moved here it was paradise, palm trees,
headlands, a bay filled with sails, no tornadoes, no snow.

This wasn’t the punch kind, delivered by a subterranean fist.
This one, more lurch, then twist, and then the crashing starts.

You sit on the floor with the books, the overturned lamp,
the ceiling dust. There are cracks on the walls that will stay that way.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I love living in Northern California in spite of the fact that the earthquake risk hangs in the back of my consciousness. My first earthquake experience was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and couldn’t figure out why things were gently trembling. Since moving west in 1984, I have been through enough to know that the house could fall. It’s been quite awhile since the last one, and my emergency supply of water has expired. (There’ usually a run on the preparedness stuff right after the stronger ones.) It was interesting to write about what it’s like at the time, and a reminder about how the cracks remain.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Filmore Street at Broadway” (San Francisco, California) by Phyllis Klein.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR/PHOTOGRAPHER: Phyllis is a California transplant from New York via Michigan. Visit her at phyllisklein.com.

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A POEM FOR DADA DAY AT THE PLACE APRIL 1, 1958
by Jack Spicer

I
The bartender
Has eyes the color of ripe apricots
Easy to please as a cash register he
Enjoys art and good jokes.
Squish
Goes the painting
Squirt
Goes the poem
He
We
Laugh.

II
It is not easy to remember that other people died
besides Dylan Thomas and Charlie Parker
Died looking for beauty in the world of the
bartender
This person, that person, this person, that person
died looking for beauty
Even the bartender died

III
Dante blew his nose
And his nose came off in his hand
Rimbaud broke his throat
Trying to cough
Dada is not funny
It is a serious assault
On art
Because art
Can be enjoyed by the bartender.

IV
The bartender is not the United States
Or the intellectual
Or the bartender
He is every bastard that does not cry
When he reads this poem.

SOURCE: Poetry (July/August 2008)

PHOTO: “Blabbermouth Night, an open reading and forum, at The Place” by C.R. Snyder, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jack Spicer (1925–1965) was a poet often identified with the San Francisco Renaissance — the name given to the emergence of writers and artists in the Bay Area at the end of WWII. In 2009, My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer won the American Book Award for poetry.

ABOUT DADA: Dada is a movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire. Its founders struck upon this essentially nonsense word to embody a playful and nihilistic spirit alive among European visual artists and writers during and immediately after World War I. They salvaged a sense of freedom from the cultural and moral instability that followed the war, and embraced both “everything and nothing” in their desire to “sweep, sweep clean,” as Tristan Tzara wrote in his Dadaist Manifesto in 1920. In visual arts, this enterprise took the form of collage and juxtaposition of unrelated objects, as in the work of French artist Marcel Duchamp. T.S. Eliot’s and Ezra Pound’s allusive, often syntactically and imagistically fractured poems of this era reflect a Dadaist influence. Dadaism gave rise to surrealism. (SOURCE: poetryfoundation.org.) To read more about Dadaism, visit wikipedia.org.

ABOUT THE PLACE: Between 1955 and 1959, The Place at 1564 Grant Street was at the center of San Francisco’s Beat culture — a bohemian bar managed by Knute Stiles and Leo Krekorian. In a 1986 interview published in North Beach Magazine, Krekorian, known as the “Grandfather of the Beats,” explained some of what was special about The Place: “When Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road people started hitchhiking to San Francisco from all over the country, even from foreign countries, and their first stop was The Place. They walked in with the luggage and I usually let them park their stuff a few days until they got squared away.” (Read more of this essay by Mark Schwartz & Art Peterson, originally published in The Semaphore #181, Fall 2007 at foundsf.org.)