“On the Occasion of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s 100th Birthday” by William Taylor Jr.

William Taylor Jr.


At Vesuvio cafe just across from City Lights
you can still get a perfect Bloody Mary
and sit at a balcony table with your
tattered notebook and your head
full of useless dreams,
just like them beatniks back in the day.
Down in Kerouac Alley a double-decker bus
dumps a batch of sun-addled tourists
out into the day, and they mill about,
squinting at the signs and the plaques,
until a fellow in a baseball cap says, Jack Kerouac,
he was the guy who wrote Catch-22
back in the 1960s. His companions
nod and take pictures with their phones
of what they couldn’t say,
until they’re herded back onto the machine
like so many heads of poorly-dressed cattle.
Over at Columbus and Broadway
there’s a palpable shabbiness to things,
because Carol Doda is dead, and Gregory Corso,
and Richard Brautigan, Mr. Ginsberg,
and so many other folks who
brought a certain magic to the world
just when it was needed.
Now the Salesforce Tower looms
like a cheapass eye of Mordor,
and death weaves through Market St. traffic
like an Uber car they won’t let you cancel,
but if you’re lucky you’ve got
another few minutes
until it arrives, and look!
There’s ol’ Ferlinghetti
shuffling down the avenue
like a lost angel,
like a miracle they forgot to cancel,
and suddenly everything is pretty in the dying light
as the ghosts and the tourists
and the drunks and the bartenders
all clasp hands and chant:
Holy Ferlinghetti! Holy Bloody Mary!
Holy dying San Francisco
in the dying light!
May you be born again forever
as all the hearts break
like promises beneath a perfect
North Beach sun!

from Poets Respond
March 24, 2019


William Taylor Jr.: “I’ve lived in San Francisco for over a decade, and part of what drew me here is its literary history. I spend a fair amount of time in North Beach cafes working on my writing, and I like to imagine I feel a bit of residual energy from what came before. A few times over the years I’ve seen Mr. Ferlinghetti shuffle by my table on Columbus Avenue, and it was like catching a glimpse of some mythical creature. It always brightened me a bit. Today is officially Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day in San Francisco, and North Beach will be a party.” (web)

Rattle Logo