Night in San Francisco

Christopher Raley


Lighthouse strobe winks
through cracked curtains.

Hotel room is darker
than this city’s night.

In the alley below
a man grates complaint
through phlegm as if

digging it out
of loose gravel.
He fades into fog.

Slight shift of shadow
draws me back
to winking eye.

Red light drifts
between Alcatraz
and the mainland

perched on black mass,
a super tanker
as full as America,
as silent as a newspaper.

Slight shift of shadow,
and the couple above us
is amorous again.

From the doctor’s balcony,
city view folded open.
We contemplated

what he told us,
like the panorama which hid
more than it showed.

Irving street beamed straight
to sun’s ending of land,
and off-shore fog

waited to bed us.
Winter twilight hardened
concrete and stoplight,

jogger and taillights,
blackened spaces between
cypress and eucalyptus.

Skyline glittered
like a choir of mute
and static angels.

The couple is still,
my wife gasps through bi-pap.

Do they hold each other
or has someone left?

I think of my uncle,
long hair parted to frame
smile lines from almond shaped eyes.

Somewhere a fractured sidewalk,
at an impossible angle,
bears imperceptible scuffs

and the percussive echo
of his metal tipped
umbrella held loosely,

dragging behind him,
chattering on cement
like a noisy friend

to his grinning gaze
redolent of wonder
and bewildered like charm.

Somewhere, the memory he lost
still wanders this maze,
confirming every short cut,

denying every slow upheaval.
Somewhere his memory
shows more than it hides.

Somebody decides
it’s a good idea
to blare rap in the courtyard.

I am waiting
for the hotel manager
to come out yelling.

It might even be
the same as morning.



photo credit: Christopher Raley


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