34 The Noe Valley Voice • October 2013
OTHER V O ICES poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction • the noe valley voice
Poems by Jan Sollish
San Francisco Sundays
If Paris is a beautiful woman And London a stuffy gentleman My Barcelona Is a gay crone An open-armed acceptance of life Utterly maternal, absurd, wise.
The note said If one person smiles at me On the way to the bridge I won’t jump. No one smiled.
Some say My city is godless For reasons political. My city, named after that gentle Saint Francis who walked and talked With the animals.
Her spirit offers Gaudi, stone Made of air and dreams, Buildings that breathe, glow, spin. Miro, lines and colors floating As we stupidly cry and wonder why. Picasso, that grumpy old Barcelonan who autographed Children’s tummies with indelible marker. “Sell that!” he wordlessly spat his genius at parents. Ah, and our gay mother’s child Dali, wicked and wild Suckled on Catalonian milk. Barcelona The scent of gritty pipes and garlic She rearranges molecules, opens eyes to the naked Man in the Mediterranean Tossing diamonds in the sky as he Throws back his head and guffaws. God blesses him with the beauty of this day In Barcelona. She leaves stones unturned.
Broken Dreams You watched the Golden Gate Bridge for a year Recording those who jumped. Did you sit In a lawn chair Bundled against Our cold and foggy days? Did you shout out in triumph When, crab-like, a person Crept out onto the span? Did your hands hold steady On your video camera Or did they tremble Watching a soul tumble? Was a jump day A good day Or did it make you despondent? Did the movie you finally made Comfort survivor families As you claimed? Or did it make you a little money Capturing a lifetime of broken dreams?
Her body washed up Three days later On the shoreline Of Marin County.
But it is Sundays When San Francisco cannot hide Her secret love of the sacred. Sundays when bells chime Sometimes muffled in our ghostly fog, Other times ringing out in air so sharp and clean We see the sounds. On Sundays, a street with a place of worship And that is just about every street Becomes a narrow one lane road.
You read A three-inch article In the people section Of the Chronicle. It makes you weep. And eventually It makes you smile At strangers.
This happens— The first family to arrive Simply stops in the left lane In front of their Church, mosque, temple And turns off the car, Unthinkable on any other day of the week, And the family tumbles out All fresh and dressed for Whatever god they believe. The car behind does the same, And all over the city Hundreds and hundreds of cars Illegally park.
What We Choose We measure our worth In day-to-day things. By the success of our Children, our bank account, Our outward appearance As we walk down the street Secure in our bodies. But inside...inside There is a universe constructing Or deconstructing— A complicated map We try to follow.
And what policeman would dare Ticket God’s parking lot?
Those of us Attempting to take this Inner journey Are soft forms Without shells to protect us— Bruised by everyday occurrences As we make our way, Our very existence in question.
Jan Sollish has two children, Brady, 28, and Anya, 23, “now off exploring this great world and giving their mom more gray hair.” By day, Sollish works at an elementary school on the Peninsula as a literacy specialist, helping children become proficient in reading and discover the joys of literature. In her free time, she has studied writing with some of San Francisco’s most noted writers, including Leslie Kirk Campbell, poet Janell Moon, and former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Adair Lara. Sollish is currently working on a memoir/book about her time in North Beach in the late 1970s and early ’80s. —Olivia Boler
We pray to let us return To our confident outer life With its ups and downs, So reassuring in its reality And leave that unseen journey For saints or sinners... Not the likes of us.
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Published on Oct 1, 2013