outside General today, a fight broke out
whack! hit on the head, one to the other
"you mother-fucker you, listen up!"
and unthinkingly, i get between them
20 year old girl--you know society's rules [it's foolish to intervene]
"hey man, calm down, peace out"

he rounds on me, and now calls me the mother-fucker
i step back, whisper prayers in tongues
"why don't you just call the cops then?" he screams
logic doesn't bode well with the violently drunk
[so should some avoid liquor altogether?]

a cop car drives by and he runs into the busy street, flagging it angrily
"i feel out of my body," christie says beside me

at the end, the cop approaches me
"Would you like me to lock him up, ma'am? Did you feel threatened? Should I take him to jail for the night?"
"No, no, I didn't feel threatened; he just cursed at me."

The cop didn't even ask what happened, completely ignored the hit man's side of the story
[being homeless and drunk and Spanish-speaking doesn't get you far, even when you're mildly assaulted]

"Reinas, reinas," the man says to us: Queens
we smile awkwardly, i wish he wouldn't call us that

and my privilege is power [the power to decide outcomes?!]
and, in my feminity, my privilege [white and a student and employed by the hospital]--
my privilege is protection.


jasmine season

on unknown park trails, a welcome walk
& that scent--I know that scent!

steamy & rain-drenched pink blossoms
i walk, staggering, breathing them in
such tropical flowers this far north??
the most intoxicating smell i know!

& i hear those words that whisper,
"you will come like the rain"

i will drink deeply of this love.


"she put on happiness like a loose dress, over pain i'll never know"

knock on the wall of the room
ritually recognizing ownership of your half-space
your genitals are showing, exposed,
i gesture, awkwardly, but you miss it.

if i just look you in the eye, sir, if i ignore the accidental exposure
does that somehow offer you more dignity,
you and your 53 veteran years, rotting in this hospital room?

you are in too much pain to talk today,
i understand, laugh lightly
feeling too young to communicate that i do endeavor--
oh i endeavor!
to be with you in your ancient pain


J & A

there's something about coffee on the roof in the morning
about laughter and back rubs well into the night
about conversations while sunbathing in urban parks
& drinking wine straight out of the bottle

there's something about best friend-sisters,
& oh, i'm so grateful(l) for their visit to my city.


and so we broke bread, pouring the crimson over it
wine falling in drops off the cliff on which we stood
the sea below, we faced the western gate
golden & famous, as it was

& we remembered You
you who came to dwell among us
to suffer and to dance and to drink with us
you who became one of us

oh, my most dear brothers, my most dear sisters
may we recognize the holy One!


late at night i hear the trees singing with the dead

march rainy flakes & steam on the mountains
patchy sunlight, sodden greyish-brown ground, leftover snow

& oh the stars
in the city i had forgotten their proximity!

coyotes, nearly 1 a.m., howling through the windowpanes
everything is bigger here, louder in a different way

and though it comes with harsh words,
though it brings secret & quiet tears
the north is full; it cradles me.


after work i found hippie hill,
stumbled across it really

a cute boy invited me to play frisbee
but i shyly shook my head, smiled

so many men--the remnant anarchists, camping and smoking--
not Thoreau and Emma Goldman but dirty self-styled gypsies
drum circles and backpacks and alcohol

a fight nearly broke out
shouting & curses exchanged
culminating in a surrendered wallet
by a man in a tie-dyed shirt
and i sang in tongues i do not know
i sang to the beat of the drum
to the wheels of the bike
to the clean red-haired boy of 10 (why are you here, son? is that your dad?)
to the guy asking me for a cigarette with sleazy gestures and calls

oh ancient days--oh lengthening evenings!
i sit cross-legged in the light; i observe
eucalyptus light.


to talk of things deemed secret & unmentionable

blue & engorged veins
stomach bloated, bagged, and tubed
and i am queasy,
i can't look, can't smell these smells, can't be here
force myself to look only at the eyes

and you sir, when you speak to me of your 15-day sobriety
of your 80-year-old heart, when you are only 43
of your pcp and heroin habits
your vivid dreams of shooting up
your waking anger of finding empty hands, clear veins
your dad who died in your arms

you talk with self-protective detachment
i'm taken aback
please don't list the hugest things in your life for me
please don't be so casual
it's difficult to stomach.


"i wrote a little song for you
with a melody i'd borrowed put to words that didn't rhyme
to repeat what you already knew
as the stones thrown at your window tapped a syncopated time
you kept a distance out of fear you'd break
but what good's a single windchime, hanging quiet all alone?
the music our collisions would make
is a sound that turns the road-that-leads-us-back-home
into Home"


SF General Hospital

It's just another Monday, just another day of my internship. Until I talk with a man named Ernest, a Black man of about 35, who matter-of-factly tells me of terrible things, who just needs an ear for a few minutes, who just needs a prayer.

And this room is intense, too much--all the anger boiling over from the drama at the next bed, and Ernest, tender & gentle Ernest, praying for strength and for his family and for resources, like a continued room to go home to, like money to get his two young kids out of The System, and for the pain in his legs. He is dealing with partial paralysis, you see, because someone punched him in the neck on the streets.

After, in the hallway, I cry hard, too-loud tears. All the fucking injustice. More sincerity from a man who's had harder things than most probably ever will, a man who just accepts these hard things and tries to keep walking. I want to shake him--Don't you know it's not like this? The extent of your suffering is not reality! Don't you know?!

But his suffering is reality. And it is for the world over, despite my insanely-privileged, though not quite painless, infinitely-easier position. What's universal in the human experience? Suffering, it seems. And maybe a weird joy, or gratitude.

And I become psalmist, pleading, are You blind & are You deaf, to miss these heartfelt prayers?
or are You dreadful, to allow such things? How long until justice is like a river?

you say, "the hopelessness of living & the childishness of suicide!"
but there's a call to love my brother that can never be destroyed


Tanner Pehl beloved by his family

and now murder is real

From 185 to 120, but you were the first one to go since graduation almost 3 Junes ago. And oh, how my heart aches for our class, for 20 year-old you! Peace be you, Tanner. Rest in peace.