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Love At 19th & Guerrero

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


[email protected]


Table of Contents


Poems For Dominique


Carrying The Torch


19th & Valencia


Your Personal Chrisian Song Leader


One More Candle!


Your Real Name Is Janis


PM Letter


On The Search For God In Detroit


Poems For Joie


Always Eternally Joie


The Seeds We Planted


When She Moved To Polk Street


Higher Consciousness Through Coffee


Letter To Joie


To Joie As The World Moves On


Poems For Eli


1. Poems For A Woman Named Eli


2. Poems For A Woman Named Eli


Eli 2017


More Works by Mel C. Thompson


Other Shakespir Ebooks by Mel C. Thompson




Carrying The Torch


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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


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She pouts cunningly

And winks slyly,

Sitting on a battered mattress.

The bed is a sinking life raft

In a sea of empty bottles,

Half-finished books

And unanswered mail.


My codependency

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.”


Structured environments

Just kill her,

And language games

Piss her off.

That’s why she just

Had to drop it all:

The jobs,

The roommates,

The boyfriends,



She keeps the suburbs

In her threadbare coast pocket

In case she needs an ashtray.

She has all the liquor stores


Their hours,

Their prices,

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.

Crazy people

Are always too generous.

She says,

“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,

We kiss.

The alcohol on her breath

Smells good.

We kiss.

The tobacco on her breath

Smells good.

The yellow-fog-dirt-street is watching.

I go.


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


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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!


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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


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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

A cappella

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.


PM Letter


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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


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I found a heart

As easy to open

As a book of liquor store matches.


There was a bachelor’s degree,

Unframed, wrinkled,

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.




Always Eternally Joie


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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

Conceptual party.

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

Entire history.

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


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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.




1. Poems For A Woman Named Eli


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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


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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?”


Eli 2017


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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.


Return To Table of Contents


Other Shakespir Ebooks by Mel C. Thompson


Return To Table of Contents


The Epic Journey to The Great Palace of Non-Judgment


Khrushchev’s Second Chance


The Waste Basket


Antiheroes In Palestine


American Wage Slave


Return To Table of Contents

Love At 19th & Guerrero

These love poems were inspired by my admiration for three people who had been, in the early 1990s, regular performers in the Café 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.

  • ISBN: 9781370223756
  • Author: Mel Thompson
  • Published: 2017-09-25 12:20:10
  • Words: 3955
Love At 19th & Guerrero Love At 19th & Guerrero