New Year’s Eve in San Francisco

We lacked provisions, so I went foraging

around Cow Hollow,

I walked along wide sidewalks

dazzled by the chrome December light.

The townspeople had hung festive wreaths on their doors,

but I kept coming across brown Christmas trees

lying in twos and threes, just abandoned.

Then, and again, the belly-deep oomph of the fog horn.

In a boutique I bought pinot noir,

the owner held up a plump bottle like a trophy.

“This wine beat great Burgundies in a blind tasting”,

“sometimes”, he continued, “people just have to accept

they can’t be great for ever.”

Next door the sports bar was packed,

young men drew attention to themselves,

the fog horn sounded in the bay.

By the time I left an organic store

my hands were full with brown paper bags.

Did you know Californian strawberries ripen in November?

And that they have the best walnuts in the world?

I took a cab downtown,

just for the hell of it, just to sit down.

The driver was an Iraqi, he’d left in 1989.

I wished him a happy new year, and he thanked me.

Seconds later I got prevailed upon by an African American,

he looked down on his luck, his mouth missing teeth,

he shouted “Christ has risen” in my face

“be joyful!”

We walked together down the sidewalk,

he smelling of skunk

me watching his big clenching hands.

Then he turned on his heel

and rejoined a group of un-resolved looking men

standing on the edge of Market Street.

(2008)

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