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At Il Fornaio, San Francisco

Inside Il Fornaio, a sparrow joins me
At the marble table. Sour chirp. Wants
My pumpkin muffin, a sip of espresso, to be

Let out. Overhead heaters crackle,
Brand name, "Sunpak." Behind glass, soggy
Plaza. Drizzle. Umbrellas sprout—black

Mushrooms at the corner. First day of
Spring. Two women guide a dolly stacked
With cardboard boxes: one pushes, the other

Balances. Sign says, "No Parking, 2 a.m. to
6 a.m., Street Cleaning." Wet cars chase one
Another south on Battery. I drop a crumb of

Muffin. A man with cigarette frowns by,
Walking city face, facing faded needs.
What we come to expect becomes limited.

Fear triggers the minimal. Dreams diffuse,
Transfuse the violet sky. Do you own an
Umbrella? Carry the morning paper?

Let a briefcase swing at your knees? The
Plaza fountain spurts across fabricated
Rock. Recycling water show. Tortured river.

This fountain secretly feeds the heavens?
Most gather at crosswalks, waiting for traffic
To stop. Want permission to walk, to disappear

Inside red-bricked offices. The sparrow chirps,
Begging for pumpkin, but the muffin's gone.
The bird flies off. Evaporation's endless.

Much of What We Talk

Much of what
we talk
is not for the lover
but the dead father
who listens
through the phone.
He called me
by my brother's name.
Why did I always
do worse
after his criticism
than better?
Listen? He never listened.
His ears were
too big for his head.
Mother cooked safe
things—boiled eggs,
buttered toast, decaf with milk.
I rebel by killing me
a little at a time.
There was a time
(the late 70s, I think)
when all I was
was a peanut on legs.
I am the same legume,
only smaller,
craving love
after months of chaos.


How many dreams haunt your parking lot?
I hold my breath whenever I walk backwards,
Back to Hula-Hoops, rocking horses and toy
Soldiers. Let umbrellas cover the sun, I'll swim to
The deep end. Daddy filled the pool with weeds and
Blood. I'm always stroking into television,
Diving for tears and laughter. The sun
Lives on the small screen. Boxed life. Nuclear
Fathers. A woman appears advertising tires.
That warms the tubes. Hand on screen, I test sex
Under glass. She winks then wrinkles when I adjust
The Vertical. We could be lovers, best love
Imaginable, but imagine her in fifty years—probably
Dead like me. Faces terrorize the glass, a rerun
With trains and girls and men raising rifles.
Someone on the train dies. In real life only the
Conductor survives, retires near Reno. I wonder if
It's all a dream. A yellow cat waits behind the door,
Wants to be bounced on my knee like a baby.
I could maybe tolerate that cat if he used this
New deodorant being advertised again. Sometimes
I could slip a knife behind my eyes,
Scrape away the residue of childhood viewings.

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