Fat marshmallow clouds settle on North Beach.
Six slate-gray elephants with ears clipped like Boston Terriers
emerge from a silver cup where Lombard hits Columbus.
They lift their trunks in a rich, mellow saxophone chorus,
the strong animal smell of barley and leather swaying
and drifting toward Washington Square. Here Brautigan
once posed for a picture. Pioneer girl wept, unable to imagine
elephants wrought from a cup on Lombard and Columbus.
It had to be over on Green, or maybe in the Upper Haight.
She and Brautigan would go there, as many did in those days.
Why, one wonders, does Washington Square feature a statue
Of Ben Franklin? When the marshmallow clouds lifted,
the elephants were gone. Thus we might conclude
that marshmallow clouds alone
can produce elephants
from a silver cup.
And the sun emerged and poured a gluey
sweetish jaundiced malaise over bay and city,
soaking and testing the porosity of human identity.
Billions of things per second fly
through the body at the speed of light,
all crispness of time and space lost
smeared blurred hated gone in the vanishing
point of the marshmallow animal soul.
The iron bed of justice in the San Remo was
predictably uncomfortable, icy cold.
“This bed has bones in it,” Cheryl said.
But that was ten years earlier. Maybe twenty.
I thought perhaps I’d avoid the door and enter
the San Remo by leaping on the roof and slipping
in from above. In the poem, this was easier than I thought.
“The poetaster enters the poem and finds
the haunted bedroom, the stain of silver blood,
the horn of Africa.” The curtain shimmied,
the clock frowned, the door closed.
Requiem aeternam dona eis.
It is only through sounds that ghosts can enter
our world. Bells or the click of wood on wood.
There is no other way.
This arcane knowledge was granted me
as the night clouds staggered back
and I slept a cold black sleep
at the San Remo in North Beach, San Francisco.