First Edition | Poetryby joan gelfand
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First Edition features original works by Northern California Jewish writers. Appearing the first issue of each month, it includes a poem and an excerpt from a novel or short story.
by joan gelfand
Lex and 67th The corner luncheonette — 1940’s décor. I’m
Sipping an egg cream, fizzy sweetness, afternoon half-light,
Back on that swiveling stool, enveloped in your presence.
You were SO big — and talking. Always talking.
Your legacy — a love of food and strangers.
Your headstone is a mess, daddy-o.
It was you who led me by my small hand, handing me the
Midnight blue tallis bag — silver lettering
Like moonlight on a lake.
There was magic in that bag. I’m sure of it.
III: All Around the Town
Daddy-O the FDR still stinks; the traffic would drive you mad,
And all your friends are dead.
But the days still grow dusky, and in that space between day and night
Romance and expectation loiter.
Daddy-O, on these streets, you’re that note,
That ancient music, that upbeat jazz chord
Wrapping itself, wordless, around my heart.
I come to this city and feel you in the cracks
Of the pavement, the closeness of the brick,
The cool sky, the unceasing noise, and
The dirty river flowing by.
This city is etched on my memory like some noir film,
Blanketed with dark, unresolved mysteries.
I’ll always remember the night we lay in the dark,
Crickets the only sound beside your voice as you regaled us
With tales of pushing your knish cart on the beach at Coney Island.
Daddy-O, years pass and I can’t seem to get to you.
In this city, I pay my respects
To your memory. To your joy.
In this city, Daddy-O, you are still alive.
The Ferlinghetti School of Poetics
by joan gelfand
“All that we see, or seem, is but a dream within a dream.” Edgar Allen Poe
I: The dream within the dream within the dream
What is it, Ferlinghetti,
Taking star turns in my dreams?
Strolling in front of cars
Haunting alleyways, stairways,
Bars? Beating moth like flitting through
San Francisco’s sex fraught avenues? In North Beach
Where XXX marks art and
Nasty commerce collide, intersect Columbus,
Telegraph Hill, Jack Kerouac Way.
You are fog whispering in from the sea
On another sunny day.
“There’s a breathless hush on the freeway tonight,
Beyond the ledges of concrete/Restaurants fall into dreams
With candlelight couples/Lost Alexandria still burns.” *
Ferlinghetti’s words sink, weighted
On the business end of an invisible fishing line,
Dredging last nights’ dream to surface, gasping for air
Shivering like some catfish
Eyes bulging, wet lake water dripping off its scales.
The knife of memory slices open
That dream, finds me on haunted streets,
Instructing small boy:
“You gotta go to the Ferlinghetti school. It’s totally rad
and completely cool.”
II: Ferlinghetti Makes an Appearance
Phantom audience shouts: “Higher! Higher!”
Egg the poets on — after all, they’re not on the wire.
Higher? We spin the memory wheel until there’s my father
Strolling through his own Coney Island
And there he is again winning a goldfish
The clerk hands it over fish circling in plastic bag
Big Daddy pretends
It’s all for the kids.
He needed to win like that fish needed water.
III: The Poet Reconsiders
Is the skill of life just keeping on
All the gears oiled, the doors open?
Even if the past keeps drowning and the knifed open
Dream fish still swims around?
In dream theater Ferlinghetti arrives.
Was it the Regal, the Royal or the Metreon?
I rise to make room for he who started everything
Got the wheel of poetry turning, broke
Open language, letters. Vaporized
While he drifts
Haunting my dreams.
*From “Wild Dreams of A New Beginning” by L. Ferlinghetti
Joan Gelfand is an award-winning poet and writer. She is the poetry editor for J., the development chair of the Women’s National Book Association, and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She lives in San Francisco.
“Daddy-O” is from Gelfand’s book “A Dreamer’s Guide to Cities and Streams.”
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