Poem: ‘Fog Poem Number 71’

Tongo Eisen-Martin, San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate, shares a poem about the city’s symbolic fog.

san francisco in fog

You all prayed so perfectly just now
   (in the growing San Francisco language)
    Tomorrow, we start again with the gold…

new neighbors in the trance of spiritual infancy
newspaper people describing the way the non-white-class body stretches out on benches
how the city will sit you down next to the kindest alcoholism
spare fanaticism…a steal
in the shooting gallery that becomes a shooting gallery (or the next vaudeville congress)

accordingly, newspaper people wanting in on underground gambling shacks
maybe even in on sensible proletariat retribution

from your lips to courthouse tiles…the revolution that devils do…discovered by young artists in a complexity of passing…predictable…anti- elder…easy to kill…illegitimate to Afrika

white counterculture like
a lighthouse in the middle of a prison

or ageless joke about how well religions work
where white authors have been

dreamscape for the petite bourgeoisie
who have tempers, but not dance floor tempers
who have to write fiction to redeem a neighborhood mauling
write myths about how the jungle makes its faces
makes its passports to the shelter system
mauling page after page

delivered to powerlessness
sweet honey county-line terrorism takes your neighbors

Apostle brain matter what buckets are made for…
Pray over these buckets…comment on slavery…loosen the white supply of whiskey…supply of white city…

why not shower with light
really clean the blood off of your shoes

in walled off language
quotes from the newer undergrounds

the white movie drags on

a ton of limbs made into one glass rim
into a musics of compassion
or star in the minds of the addicts who really count out here

When they talk about the summer
They make it sound like birds of prey were involved

Our next duet
Back in San Francisco making money off of drugs again

In a symmetry of rage
Breaking the news that the city did not have to die young•

This poem appears in the Spring 2022 issue of Alta Journal.

Tongo Eisen-Martin is San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.
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