SAN FRANCISCO SOUND
By David Kunkel
To clarify, I was a tourist:
Painted Ladies, hotel rooms,
gentleman’s clubs for your friend’s eighteenth.
On the hunt for French soul food
we crossed six—seven—
too many Tenderloin blocks.
Who knew Baghdad by the Bay could be such a shit city,
shit streets with shit people, shit rags,
shit wheelchairs on shitwalks, shit
homeless hands, aggressive, not like the “Repent.
Jesus Saves” man, standing silent, solemn,
solitary? Who knew Golden Gate could scare me
more than Southie, Richmond, Harlem, where I am
Tourist #1, shoes too rich, hair too neat,
clothes too clean? And who could say we’d fall asleep
two coffees deep past midnight, eyes red like the sheets?
In Alamo Square we watched the sky start to glow.
The hills lit up (like Peru, I said, like slums, I said),
buses on wires. Listening to cars drive by,
cables crackle. To you in the future, breathing hard.
Lying quiet. A woman alone on the phone:
“I never thought I’d enjoy a sunset again”—
enjoying it now. “He always pet dogs
with such ferocity”—spilling a story
it felt early to hear.
David Kunkel received Boston College’s Arts Achievement Award for his poetry and fiction. His writing has appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Bird’s Thumb, Eclectica, Literary Juice, Rumble Fish Quarterly, and plain china. He grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and currently lives in Wisconsin.