Poems of Berkeley and Jerusalem

On Hearing the Cafe Mediterraneum is About to Close

But I live here.
drinking ghost coffee, writing poems
and wondering why the morning papers
never get older?
I mean, I have an address and a bed
and a place where my television lives
but I live here. Many people live here.
I write my books here; will they bulldoze my books?
I’m 49 in a university town
and at the med there are people
10 years older than me
so I don’t have to get old.
And they live here.
And I live here.
The chairs know us, the tables know us.
The blue-and-white striped awning knows us.
The tinted glass menu knows us by name.
I never knew the med had an owner
I thought it grew here.
I thought a magician poured boiling coffee
into the black earth on a full moon
and the med grew.
And Berkeley grew around the med.
And the streets became paved
and it was good.
How can the med close? Can the moon close?
I’ve seen the man in the moon in the med
drinking coffee. He lives here too
when he’s off work.
This is a living room not a coffeehouse
and it stretches and loops thru time and space.
And I live here. I mean, I live here.

Jerusalem and the Day of Atonement

Jerusalem decided to fast this year
for the Day of Atonement.
“You’ll give up blood?” the Lord asked her,
not quite believing.
“No, but for a whole day,” Jerusalem answered,
her voice quivering
like the outline of a mirage
that will not quench thirst
“I’ll give up mirrors.
I feed on my beauty you know.
Without it I won’t know who I am
and I won’t remember my sins;
they’ll all crawl away
like glittering sandsnakes
looking for another name to nest in.
I’ll be atoned.”

She started combing her hair in the mirror,
caressing it, preparing it for a whole day
without inspections
like a camper storing up supplies
for a trek in the wilderness.
“Do you like the idea?”
she asked as an afterthought.

The Lord stared at her,
waiting till she stopped looking in the mirror
and glanced at him,
a little startled
a phosphorescent flash of anger at her lower lip
gone too soon to see.
“Why not?” she asked carefully,
holding the comb much too tight.

“It has nothing to do with atonement
and it’s not true,”
the Lord answered almost clinically.
“You know who you are because I love you
and that’s not done with mirrors.
It hurts too much.
Besides,” the Lord added
“that wasn’t your idea.
You know how beautiful you are
but you also know every definition is a limit.
You wanted to take away the mirrors
for one day
and see if you would become
even more beautiful than you could imagine.
That was all you cared about.”

“Well, why not?”
Jerusalem threw the jeweled mirror
over the horizon and turned to him,
raising her face like a sword
suddenly naked of enchantment.
“Atonement takes away the limits of sin,”
she reminded the Lord.
Her voice could be mistaken for gentle
by anyone else. There was a long silence.

“You could give up blood for a day. One day,”
the Lord began again.
“Well, so could you,” answered Jerusalem
losing interest.
She plunged her fingers
thru ruby necklaces looking for another mirror.


I met a man in a bar,
claimed he was a detective
had been hired to follow Lonely
but couldn’t stay far enough behind.
People you meet in bars are like that.
I met a girl whose lipstick had eaten her mouth,
claimed she’d had an affair with Lonely,
yes, he was good-looking
if you liked the type.
She wouldn’t say anymore.
I went to a party, it went on all night,
everyone said he wasn’t there.
I think he owned the place.
I met an old lady in pink and white ruffles,
grey and white wrinkles,
she claimed she’d taught her poodle
to bite Lonely’s ankle.
She’d named her poodle after a relative
she wasn’t speaking to anymore.
The city is full of pets people love instead;
Lonely knows all about it.
Lonely’s never been arrested
but he’s been in jail. He gets around.
Lonely owns a television and we’re all on it.
Sometimes he turns off the sound
and sits for hours in the dark
just watching us open and close our mouths.

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