Love At 19^th^ & Guerrero
Mel C. Thompson
Copyright © 2017
Mel C. Thompson Publishing
Mel C. Thompson
3559 Mount Diablo Boulevard, #112
Lafayette, CA 94549
Table of Contents
Poems For Dominique
Poems For Joie
Poems For Eli
More Works by Mel C. Thompson
POEMS FOR DOMINIQUE
Carrying The Torch
I still love your plump, junkie ass,
How you keep almost dyin’ young,
Your scratchy, nervous whiskey talk.
I’m still hooked on the sober home
We never shared, the way cops
Leered at us, your calls from rehab,
Your battles with customs agents,
The creative creeps you slept with,
The binges, the needles, the tears,
The love sickness, the disorganization,
The prayers, The poems and diary
Pages tossed everywhere. Your men
Are useless like me, rotting away
In desert slums, wasting their lives
On Alaskan salmon boats. I gave you:
A white horse that feeds itself,
A rosebush that needs no water,
A marriage without a jealous bone;
But I had no business painting
Spring around your rusty eyes,
Smoothing over your jagged heart
Or imagining you could ever change.
19th & Valencia
She pouts cunningly
And winks slyly,
Sitting on a battered mattress.
The bed is a sinking life raft
In a sea of empty bottles,
And unanswered mail.
In her weary arms
Is a thin, wooden door
Holding back an inferno.
I mock her world view.
She still believes in true love.
The doorbell rings.
A white van is parked out front.
The engine is running.
Two shadowy figures remain,
One at the driving wheel
The other tending the supplies.
A ten-year-old boy emerges,
Coughs up a balloon of herion.
Upstairs she pulls out her rig.
“You can watch, if you want to.”
Just kill her,
And language games
Piss her off.
That’s why she just
Had to drop it all:
She keeps the suburbs
In her threadbare coast pocket
In case she needs an ashtray.
She has all the liquor stores
All the clerks’ names.
She keeps me company,
Wears my loneliness
Around her neck
Like a bad-luck charm.
I whine at her back porch,
Like all the other ones:
Stray-cat, boy-men, drifters
Magnetized to her doorstep.
Equilibrium scares her.
Peace and quiet seem ominous.
Something has got to give.
Usually it’s her.
Are always too generous.
“It’s always the poor who give.”
She buys my beers,
Pays for my taxi rides,
Stays up to 4:00AM
To listen to my nonsense.
Feeling her fingers
Scratch my scalp slowly,
I jibber some mush
About the nature of consciousness.
She says I think too much.
I don’t know what to do about that.
On the way to the door,
The alcohol on her breath
The tobacco on her breath
The yellow-fog-dirt-street is watching.
The sun rises as I fall asleep,
The law of entropy
Frightens me so.
But the world takes
A long time to disappear.
We all rise to find
We haven’t lost anything
Except the time it took
To paint all our rainbows blue.
Your Personal Christian Song Leader
Faith is the hope of things the eye sees not.
Hope is the vanity of that heroin horse kick.
Vanity, you sweet, sexy thing, I love you.
I’m singing to get out of my own skin.
I’m singing to that drug in my veins
Pouring out of every pore of my face.
Dominique, if you can hear across this,
Our continent of white American loneliness,
I will shout my little gospel song to you.
Jesus is just one head of a three-headed God
Who bears us in hard-labored child birth,
Loves us like a mama with a shotgun heart
And then fries us up like Shiva do before
He fires off that Lingam seed that starts
The heavy, hot, game of life and death,
All over again. Oh mercy me, I think I’m
Overloading those Crown Chakra circuits
With too many megabytes of poetic data.
Ten thousand miles of shoreline rip past my
Mind’s eye and crowd my gray matter with
The filth and froth of the five hundred cities
I’ve walked every street of till a closet full
Of every kind of shoe lay worn to the sole,
As I am worn now to the soul. “Nearer
My God to Thee,” may I walk my hippie
Way, a path that sometimes excludes You.
My Love, My Love, I was never quite true.
One More Candle!
I was always lighting one more candle
In my broken heart, calling you, through
Fire and love. And like a Roswell UFO
Believer, my far-out prayers were alien.
We’ll remember your honest kindness
In the face of our indecision. Thanks
For letting me dream on your sholder.
Thanks for picking up the phone so often.
It has not been a friendly world for dreamers.
I’m not ashamed to have been one of many
Who held to your words and your voice
Life anyone seeking a life raft in the wake
Of the overturned ship of a life and state.
You just “got it.” We never had to explain
Ourselves or struggle to justify our actions.
You already knew and forgave everything.
Even now, I envy you, can feel your freedom.
There is a time when the song must carry
Itself over the airwaves. It’s a noble thing
To let the world do its work. You retired
When the work was done. Down here,
We’re still clinging to the fraying threads
Of an unravelling life-fabric. I’m still
Lighting those candles, still calling you.
Your Real Name Is Janis
And there you are again
On a side street in El Paso
With your botched make up
And your Frank Sinatra pose
Singing White Rabbit
To a crowd of four people,
Your voice shaking and cracking
Below the slivered gold ring
Of the sun’s corona in totality.
But this time the papers
Never come; it just gets dark
And everyone gets on with their lives.
An eclipse • Is just too rare to live for.
That City which once opened up
Before me like a lotus budding
Uncontrollably in concentric circles
Leading to baskets of poetic gold.
Everything seemed to permeate
Everything, and all of silly romance
Was interwoven with the concrete.
Oh it was a blackened concrete bouquet.
It was as if steel had become juicy.
But it turned out to be a microchip
When viewed accurately from space
Or from the highest floors I’m renting,
In the loftiest abodes leading directly
To my final bankruptcy. Dominique,
I am toasting to you, drinking alone,
But righteously, called directly by
My Franco-Catholic God. A friend
More or less confessed he was dying.
Of course he knew I knew two weeks
Before even the doctors knew. But
Everyone knows I usually know those things,
So they don’t ask. But still, you remind me
Of urban perfection, when both San Francisco
And Detroit breathed in flames of words.
On The Search For God In Detroit
I found a heart
As easy to open
As a book of liquor store matches.
There was a bachelor’s degree,
One corner eaten by moths.
An untuned guitar lay
In an overstuffed closet
With one broken string.
I found a black-light poster
Of a naked man and woman
Locked in an orange and purple embrace.
Curious eyes looked out
From a weathered face
Which served as a barricade.
There was a woman in tears,
A hard winter
And paperwork left unfinished.
I found a tape machine
Playing an endless loop
Of one chord that was honest.
A voice called out low and dark
With a child-like certainty
What felt like the arms of God.
Faith on this street
Turns up like a joker
With prayers sharp as needles.
POEMS FOR JOIE
Always Eternally Joie
The yogi and the poet and the scientist always said
The Universe is the condition of every possible
Combination arising and not arising. From eternity,
Or at least billions of years ago, matter, atoms,
And subatomic pulsing waves, existed in such a way
That, given millions and millions of centuries
To experiment, something like a Joie Cook could,
Under the right conditions, occur. And since
Infinity has an infinite number of chances, it was
Certain that eventually the Cosmos would reveal
Its propensity to create such a strange, wonderful,
And wildly blissful creature. There is no escaping
The reality that reality contains a Joie Cook seed
Within it. And so that seed blossomed before us
In the form of words, music, paint and photographs.
There was never a time, and never will be a time,
When the world could exist in such a way that she
Is not a possibility at any given moment. However
Many bodies it takes, however many eons in space
It may take, matter will one day find itself forming
In that exact set of permutations required for her
To be made manifest. Although the form might not
Be found at any given instant, the potential of that
Particular formation of sparks, plasma and carbon
To burst into our lives as love, sex, poetry, color
And song, is ever present, and always, eternally
Joie. She is every bit the preexistent foundation,
And post-existent freedom from all limitations,
As anything ever was or will be. She remains
That treasure from the heart of the inner workings
Of all conceivable worlds, and she remains after
Those worlds are gone, holding within her cells
All of the molecules necessary to bring any other
World into being. It was not in her nature to linger
In the endless and boring corridor of old age for long.
Being part bird, part reptile and fully human,
She was tied to motion, the rapid movement
Of the paint brush across the surface of any surface,
The frenetic journey of the fingers up and down
Guitar fretboards and the bodies of those who loved her.
This knowledge which cannot be known by thinking
Was the source of her courage. This kind of knowing,
Which does not require the knower to know that she
Knows it, was the reason she always and forever lives,
And lives, as the prophet said, with abundance.
I loved her before I met her, knowing that something
Like her must exist and reveal itself. I love her, now,
While I know her, knowing each particle has done
Its job perfectly. Although her time on our streets
Grows short, and though the decades of not seeing her
Will be hard, we know that she is always, eternally, Joie.
The Seeds We Planted
We view ourselves
Only from the corners
Of our own eyes,
Praying our greedy prayers
With hands falling
Lazily into each other’s.
We dance around truth,
Loving and criticizing
Secretly between the lines
Of white space and text,
Patronizing one another’s demons,
Dressing shared skeletons.
I rub your fragile shoulders,
Try to talk you down
From the tree you’re stuck in
And caress the curves
Of your muscular spine,
Hoping to love away the storm.
My own simple purpose —
To tend your aching thighs
As a cherished garden,
A crop of creamy flesh,
Grown in Spring,
Harvested in Summer.
When She Moved To Polk Street
Then let us drift in the wind
Like spiders clinging to a strand of webbing
Now carried off in an updraft.
And let us land wheresoever
The crosswinds die.
Our home can only be defined as such.
Higher Consciousness Through Coffee
I give you my French Vanilla denial.
Like King David, I am commanded
Not to fear if 10,000 fall
To the left of my Suisse Mocha,
And not to tremble if 10,000 fall
To the right of my cinnamon shaker.
We will calmly sip our lattes
As whole categories of employment
Are tossed into vocational oblivion.
This is my coffee vigil.
As the population of Indonesia
Expands to a billion and beyond,
I will be in a serene Marin bistro
Slightly high on a moderate caffeine dose,
Rationalizing away the problem of evil,
Watching the sun slowly refract
Through countless tree limbs
As the giant condors circle slowly
Over the green and brown hills of Novato.
And when we’re sixty-seven
And smugly on cosmic Social Security,
We’ll share a table at the Plaza Hotel.
And from an impeccably clean window seat,
We’ll observe the collapse of western civilization
With the objectivity of history professors.
I will say to you, over the gunfire,
“Joie, do you see those poor working suckers?
Even the career criminals among them
Are just working stiffs,
And the saddest part is
It’s all in their minds.”
And I know you will agree,
Nodding obviously, as you munch
On some pâté-smothered cracker,
as you knock back another glass of bubbly.
Even in those sun-darkened days,
The hills of Columbia will be bursting
At the seams with coca leaves and coffee beans,
And the vineyards of Chile will be overflowing
With deep red wine grapes.
We will call for rounds of everything
Alcoholic or caffeinated
As the last of three formal waiters
Left in The City takes our order.
Together we’ll hold out with our hubris,
Too stoned on ourselves
To ever know what hit us.
Letter To Joie
I am currently stoned
)n the doom of the world,
Getting high on the disintegration
Of all social structures.
You and I, Joie,
Are a non-locational two-person
Our drugs are only thought experiments
In the chaos salon.
We are proud to say
That we were one part of one quarter
Of one billionth of the universe’s
It’s not a super-big slice of the pie,
But if we’re lucky,
We’ll live as long as Jim Morrison
And Jesus Christ combined.
That strikes me as some kind
Of cosmic wealth redistribution plan,
Socialism with a twisted edge,
And none of that goody-good Gandhi bullshit.
Any truly comprehensive ethical theory
Would also have to pass muster with Don Rickles.
I don’t want this to come off
Like a Hunter S. Thompson thing,
Although I admit I’m kind of jealous
Of all the shit he got away with,
And jealous of how much shit
You got away with too.
And although I don’t know
How much longer I have to live,
(About two hundred more years I hope,
Give or take a decade,
On how medical technology is doing),
I hope to half-way catch up
To you, in terms of absolute debauchery
And orgiastic hedonism
On a global level.
And here I must apologize to the readers
Of other times and other places
For dropping names associated
With particular people and addresses
With which they would have had no chance
To be familiar.
But I’m egotistically counting on
The improbable eventuality
That every scholar on all continents
Will make it his or her business
To keep up with all these connections
Involved with my delusions of immortality,
Since anyone would have to be
A monomaniacal hysteric
To stay up till dawn
Pimping this slime I write
To every editor in the western world
On the premise
That they should be amazed enough
With it to publish it.
It seems that my plans are coming off,
And even the academics
Are slowly being worn down by all this
And compromising their standards,
If for no other reason than, perhaps,
If they publish me constantly,
There might be some distant chance
That I might eventually exhaust myself
And leave them alone.
Please excuse the disjointed nature
Of this letter,
Simply because it’s my birthday,
(although I started this letter
Several days ago);
And because I am too hyperactive
To go to bed;
And because I just had to write you
To let you know.
To Joie As The World Moves On
Dearest Joie, as the world moves on,
How rapidly it appears the rest of us
Will follow you into pain and darkness,
Some in a matter of weeks or months.
How very quickly the pandemic spreads.
For those who remain, what will remain?
Life will be as a great crown with the gems
All plucked out and the metal all tarnished.
You may be the last bit of glue that held
A crumbling network of sickly old poets together.
And when your soul takes flight,
What will become of the tattered and lonely
Cluster of unlit hearts huddled in the cold?
How very strange that the end of everything
Comes in the year thirteen. The prophets
Of doom were only off by twelve months.
I think this will be close enough for them.
Those who could not love, loved vicariously
Through your life story, the adventures
You had, and had again a hundred times.
And too, there was a sadness inside me
That only you could heal, because only you
Understood it, were strong enough to feel it
And not turn away. I can only love strangers
A little; and more and more, the world
Will be full of them.
Maybe I’ll mourn
My own end less, knowing the flowers
Of the earth could never bloom the same.
Alas, the future was not to be ours, after all.
When you go, I will hang on for a while,
Just as a formality, will do my job a season,
Out of propriety. But I do not see the long road ahead.
Your time, my time, and the time
Of our people — how short it now seems.
Kali has come to our doorstep. You are able
To face her. The rest of us stand trembling.
You were the only one left I could call to talk about this.
POEMS FOR ELI
1. Poems For A Woman Named Eli
I grasp at strands of air,
Wanting to pull you back here
From behind death’s stone curtain,
To stare one last time
Into your bold, bright eyes
And courageous, strong face.
I recall feeling small
And silly as you spoke
With your clear, magical voice.
My flattery never moved you,
And with unblinking integrity,
You fly-swatted me gently away
As I hovered obsequiously behind
You, watching your minuscule steps
And your rebellious hips subtly
Wway. I’d call you crying
When other poets died, and you
Never patronized or rescued,
But reflected back: a Zen mirror,
Lao Tsu in black jeans.
You tolerated more than liked
Me. You were exactly yourself,
Saying only what you meant.
You never apologized for sins,
But wore them like old shoes,
Comfortably, without repentance.
Your poems called out the notes
Of your short life: a crane
Dancing at the foggy lake shore
With tenuous, trembling legs.
Your love songs still echo
From these dark, dirty rooms.
And like a mythic ibis,
You fly to the sun god
From this world and break
Our hearts a second time.
2. Poems For A Woman Named Eli
In the prime of my life
I counted three-hundred friends,
And then came the endings,
Tumbling one over the other.
In rapid succession they went,
To AIDS, at first, then insanity,
Suicide, drugs and shame,
Until now maybe three remain,
And these last three or four
Look a bit wobbly too.
So when David told me
You had suddenly gone,
I simply shrugged it off,
Having developed that thick,
Other-worldly shell. “Ah,
Another one. So it must be.
The law of impermanence.”
I did a great job of forgetting
Until I stumbled onto Ocean
Beach and saw the bench
That says, “My dog says nothing,
And I believe him.” I sat there,
And you came flooding back in.
How many hours on the phone?
And the pain was too much,
And so with all my strength,
I spent a week forcing your
Memory back into time’s portal.
And then Bruce played the tape,
And you stood next to us.
Even then, I braved the storm
And took more pills, drank more coffee.
When P.W. Stevens died, I called you,
And tried to talk about it calmly, and you
Said simply, “So then you miss him.”
And suddenly I found myself crying.
That was the last time I wept in front
Of anyone. These days I preach,
“We have so little time left. There is
No strength to indulge in grief.
Forget everyone, and save yourself.”
I once called you and told you I love you.
You replied, “Do you really?”
The phone was silent a moment.
Yes, I did, but what to say next?
As the years kept passing,
I kept calling, and sometimes
I’d feel like a pest and say,
“I’m sorry, I keep calling too much.”
Your reply: “You said that, not me.”
After you moved to Carolina,
I kept calling, and once asked,
”So what are the people like
In the Deep South?” You paused,
Then said, “Complex.” My life
Is almost empty now, and love
Seems insanely implausible.
I’ve become a survival machine.
(I said that, not you.) And as weeks
Go by without a soul seeing my home,
There appears before me the journey
So many aging people make
Through an almost endless stretch
Of hollow, silent solitude.
Here I bring few memories,
As sentiment uses up resources.
And you were a problem, I’d thought
Was already taken care of.
Last night I felt a desperation
To see you. But the only message
I could hear in my mind was you
Saying, “Did you have more to say?”
By sheer chance, I stumbled throughout
The vast electronic catalogue of pictures
When your photo burst out like the plumage
Of a tropical bird. And the artist caputured
Your presnece in the room, the very thing
That always made me happy. The energy,
The forgiving joy, the open-heartedness,
The warmth. I don’t know how we live
Without it. And have I spent more years
Crying about you than knowing you. Yes,
And now, in old age, the ancestor worship
I so mocked as a proud, young theologian
Makes so much sense. And maybe kami
Are known by their absence, their power
To live even larger lives in our minds
Than they could ever live on these streets.
For the first time in my life tonight,
I wondered if it’s better to stop loving,
Than to hurry from person to person.
Trying to reinvent our lives too often
Is to really hide from who we’ve been.
An honestly lonely man who knows who
He is, lives more fully than the frantic one
Who never grows to feel love’s loss.
Other Shakespir Ebooks by Mel C. Thompson
The Epic Journey to The Great Palace of Non-Judgment
Khrushchev’s Second Chance
The Waste Basket
Antiheroes In Palestine
American Wage Slave
These love poems were inspired by my admiration for three people who had been, in the early 1990s, regular performers in the CafÃ© Babar poetry scene, but have since passed on. The book was inspired by my profound sense of loss when the news came in from Michigan that Dominique Lowell had passed on in June of this year, 2017, just four years after Joie Cook. Eli Coppola had left us back in the year 2,000. Each of these women had something that was irreplaceable, a particular style of communicating, not just in their manner of speaking, but also in their manner of listening. My experience of them had one common thread, and that was my feeling, whenever I left their presence, that I had been deeply heard. And here I am not referring to the kind of technique-filled faux-humility that passes for good listening now. (In this Neo-Victorian age mere self-suppression and blandness are mistaken for good listening, and simple enthusiasm and expressiveness are counted as bad listening.) Instead, I'm talking about empathy. This is not to say that these listeners didn't all have their dark sides, but rather, it is to say that they were the kind of people I felt I could call and simply say what I was feeling, however frightened and lonely I might be. And, having opened my deepest self up to them, I walked away feeling known. Some of these relationships never went further than conversation, and some went a bit beyond that. The poems can speak to that matter for themselves. In any case, they were each, in their own way, quite obviously muses, and not just for me, but for many other men and women. Perhaps a hardbound volume could be filled if one were to gather all of the love-poems and tribute-verses written for them, whether publicly or privately. This short tract of poems, collected from several other books, letters and magazines, is a tribute to the vibrancy, the generosity, and the concern these fantastic people showed me. I miss them every day of my life.