“A Town of Mirrors and Quaking Forty-Fours” by Richard Manly Heiman

Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2017: Artist’s Choice


Days In San Francisco #1, 1984 by Harry Wilson

Image: “Days In San Francisco #1, 1984” by Harry Wilson. “A Town of Mirrors and Quaking Forty-Fours” was written by Richard Manly Heiman for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2017, and selected by Wilson as the Artist’s Choice winner.

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Richard Manly Heiman


Tomorrows whirl along, they promenade
like pages ripped from too-brief years, before
their soft-shoe asphalt syncopations fade
down Geary to the Van Ness corridor.

The beats in Fillmore boom-boom, saxophones
uncurl and snake around a fog of nights.
And yesterdays? Don’t think about them—gone.
Like endless hours spent browsing City Lights.

Once, hungry fire raged through the Tenderloin.
The dead shipped south to Colma, out of sight.
Once, bitter Tong-blood soaked the urban groin,
and Carol’s boobs glared proud in neon light.

But now who thinks of Sutro’s on the sand,
or Playland at the Beach, or Winterland?

Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2017
Artist’s Choice Winner

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Comment from the artist, Harry Wilson, on this selection: “Richard triggered enough of the city that I knew, experienced, and loved. And of course it was also a time that I returned to through his poem. It is a different city now, but I keep going back anyway. So it was his focus on the city that did it. There were other poets that made the choice difficult, though—thanks to Judy Kaber and Loretta Walker, and their more personal takes.”

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