I’ve been thinking about San Francisco a lot lately. Maybe I am just thinking about living somewhere outside of LA. Maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to a song by a band called Foxygen called “San Francisco.” The song owes a lot to the Zombies stylistically (and Tony Bennett lyrically) but it’s pretty catchy.
Anyway, I remembered I wrote this poem about San Francisco some years ago and I want to share it here.
They’re performing along Fisherman’s Wharf.
Tourists come from all over to see the “Bush Man.”
He’s even in the “What to Do with Kids in San Francisco” guidebook.
Crouched on a crate with a branch covering his face,
he startles unsuspecting pedestrians.
People aren’t annoyed.
Most obligingly empty their pockets
in exchange for a chuckle.
He’s one of the lucky ones.
He’s been here 25 years
and not even the man across the street,
skin suffocated by silver paint,
doing the robot dance,
can compete. There’s something special
about the simple combination
of bum and tree branch.
They’re selling things on Telegraph Avenue.
The basket lady of Berkeley just wants to talk.
She asks people where they’re from
and if they’ll sign her people book.
Many oblige, but look at their watches impatiently
as she recalls to them her time in Poland.
Surrounded by hundreds of handmade baskets,
grimy from years on slimy sidewalks,
she hasn’t sold one yet.
They’re singing in Haight-Ashbury.
These are the true hippies who never gave up their lazy lifestyle
to get rich and swell the cost of Bay Area real estate.
Signs say: “We promise to spend your money on drugs.”
Melded into the backdrop of record shops and vegan restaurants,
faces wrinkled, they’re still clothed in the tattered costumes of their youth,
running on dead energy.
As they sing, the detuned steel on their warped guitars rings abrasively,
clashing with the trolley bell.
Too confused to hear the occasional clang of coins in their coffee cups.
They’re sleeping in Union Square,
lying under the cover of newspaper blankets,
as shoppers and businessmen sidestep their mangy bodies.
They lurk in shadows
like urban monsters.
An old lady with her eye dangling from its socket
can do nothing more than
spout gibberish in a child’s voice,
waving an empty pan.