Saturday, April 13, 2013

Poetry of the Pacific, Day 3

Editor's note: these were pre-written posts, but due to a comedy of errors (not on our part), we did not actually arrive in San Francisco Thursday afternoon. I will post the story at the end of this series. Until then, please enjoy the poetry!
Golden Gate Bridge in fog, from

Lonidier Rampant 
            As from a distance, watch yourself
            Disintegrate in foaming seas.
                              -- Weldon Kees

You are too near the bridge
To have such hair
Hair a man would love
To comb his fingers through

Walking down the old familiar street
Doorways reappear
Shoe Repair New Soles
Smell of polish and leather
Where you sat in a chair
Swinging bobby soxed feet

Salvation waits on the corner of doughnut holes
Six to a bag
And in Mr. Bay's barber chair
Platinum bangs feathered on the floor

The bridge Lonidier and the sea Lonidier
And the dark morning hours
Chew through your brain
Looking for innocence
Lost Lonidier 

And the stab in your heart where the intersection
Of life and death is marked

Cool fingers of fog have been waiting
All these years
Knowing one day you'd be theirs
You are too near the bridge

To have such hair
So you'll cut it off
Leave its stories behind
Or if they stay
Whispering in the roots
You'll feel it pulled by the updraft
Of love you left behind
Lonidier Your hair
Will be the last of you
To hit the sea
The city that saved you again and again
Rising swiftly
To still you
To sleep

The Golden Gate Bridge celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. When it was completed in 1937, it was an architectural marvel in "international orange": 8,891 feet long, 6 lanes and 90 feet wide, 4,000 feet between towers standing almost 820 feet tall from top to bottom buried under the water. At 220 (or 245?) feet above the water, it sadly also presents an opportunity for suicide. Today's poem, courtesy of the literary group Big Bridge, considers the possibility. It was written by California poet Katherine Hastings, known for her   beautiful, haunting, often mythical poems. This poem is dedicated to Lynn Lonidier (1937-1993)--teacher, feminist, poet, cellist, lesbian, activist--who committed suicide by jumping off a cliff in San Francisco.

As a bonus, when researching Hastings I found out she had led a campaign among Californian poets to raise money toward saving some of the state's parks from being shuttered due to budget cuts. The campaign is over, but she still had a copy of the resulting anthology, What Redwoods Know, to send me. That is a far better souvenir than any trinket I could buy in a gift shop.

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