Autobiography (Homage to Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

I am leading a quiet life

in a small town every day watching the leaves

of the poplars blow down Broadway

and town deer graze flowerpots.

I am leading a quiet life

on upper Montana Avenue

I am an American

I was an American girl

I read fairy tales

and became a girl scout in the suburbs.

I thought I was Ophelia

swimming the Willow Glen pool

but imaging the English Channel.

I had a bad smelling plastic doll

and took piano lessons

I delivered the Mercury News

at five in the morning

on weekends too

I can still hear it thump

on lost porches

I had a lonely childhood.

I saw Armstrong land

I looked skyward and felt salvation

I worshipped my English teacher

as a sophomore at the Catholic High

and cleaned house for mother

with a rag and a rubber bucket

I landed as an Airman

on the beaches of Monterey

and in the stinking heat of Biloxi.

I have seen educated armies

on the sands of Iraq

I have seen social misfits cruise electric surf

and shopkeepers open their stores

on eBay

tofu dogs and genetically modified strawberries

at internet raves.

I have seen lies on the nightly news

and wondered at the secrets of Ted Kazinsky

a bomb in his shack at all times.

I have seen gays joyfully parade

at the Castro Street Fair

risking judgment from

brightly colored tourists.

I have not been out to the Lost Coast

in a long time, nor to the Redwoods

but I keep remembering that trip.

I have seen the bars empty at 2am

only neon signs left shining in the fog.

I have seen Willey Mays at Candlestick Park

I have read the Gettysburg Address

and attended the Ginsberg Funeral.

I liked it there

but I can’t go back

to where I came from.

I too have driven miles, miles, miles

travelling among foreigners

I have been to Asia

with my cat in a box.

I was there

when the Twin Towers fell.

I have been a manager

working with a mule, or two

Risking personal security

for the hope of something greater.

I have seen a Tessla Coil

and flaming robots in a warehouse

in South San Francisco where geeks

dreamt million dollar dreams

and ate ten dollar burritos

I have heard the sound of revelry

by night.

I have wandered lonely in a crowd.

I am leading a quiet life

on the outskirts of town

watching the world walk by

in tight shiny shoes.

I once started out

to sail around the world

but ended up in Texas

lost in evangelical haze

I have engaged in silence

manipulation and cunning.

I flew near the spotlight

it turned my celluloid dreams black.

I watched my Old Man

whom I never knew

fade from my present

into his secret past.

I am seeking heroes, not leaders.

Young girls should be explorers

and home is where one starts from.

But mother was convinced

I’d miss her, someday. She was right.

Worldly weary

I wait

I have been lost by friends

and found by strangers.

I have visited Black Rock City

I have walked Oz alone, with an expired visa

I have cried for sea birds swallowed in crude

I have awakened to a bugle cry at dawn

I have heard Weezer

blast through the tinny speakers of a VW sedan

speeding down Church Street.

I have sought refuge in literary monasteries

books stacked taller than trees.

I have seen migrating whales

from Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

I have worn halter tops and flip flops

and wandered, fearful, in the City of Angels

I have dwelt in a world

where stories buzz unseen overhead

What highways, communities, what strife!

Boys in hoodies a cause for alarm

I have seen the many graves of pioneers

in dusty western ghost towns.

and know that Vespucci

did not invade America.

I have heard frustrated Kerouacs

wishing for cheaper gas.

It is long since I was a secretary.

I am leading a quiet life

in my small town every day

reading the diaries

of new media journalists

heralding the end of analog civilization.

I have watched CNN

and note there are those who believe

the United States is the only Promised Land

where every coin is marked

In God We Trust

but most transactions lack soul

where twenty dollar bills are merely coupons

and plastic cards have ten thousand dollar limits.

I read the blogs daily

searching for an unblocked door

or an unturned stone.

I hear America singing

but it sounds like the blues.

One would never see

so much impoverished humanity

unless a hurricane exposed them to TV.

I push digital paper every day

and feel humanity amiss

even in the Creative Commons.

I hear where Santa’s Village has been bulldozed

to make a business park.

I see they’re remixing

Melville (again), but I’d prefer not.

I sense another war on the horizon

and wonder that anyone is still left willing to fight it.

I have read the writing

on a remote barroom wall in eastern Montana.

I captured it with my cell phone

and emailed it the next day.

I’ve marched in formation

careful to move only my hips

my hair in a tight braid

While keeping my eye out for Larry’s dog

and Thoreau’s pond.

I see a similarity

between cats and me.

Cats are true observers

watching the world behind double pained glass.

I have wandered down brightly painted alleyways

too narrow for Hummers

I have seen a football field of urban recycling,

in a parking lot in Oakland.

Christo has yet to cover it.