Thursday, September 8, 2016

Tenderloin Poet Jay Passer

Jay Passer‘s work has appeared in print and online since 1988. He lives in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, the city of his birth.


the last time I walked around in the forest
I can guarantee was not
bare of foot.

has the city taken me hostage?

those giant redwoods and
ferns bursting from the trunks
in radiant lime neon,
clear to see on a postcard or
in an advertisement,
though lesser as a memory than ever.

is the city consciously attempting to
kill me?

sirens seem specifically designed
to home in on my location
while each breath, shorter than before
has that peculiar almond scent
the kind you sense just before getting
the gas.

a couple of blackbirds, gossipy in the trees
appear quite unmoved
as I wipe the grime of exhaust from the
like lipstick off the kiss of death.

I lived on fish jerky and dried fruit
as I searched for you
I lived on wilted flowers
and the regurgitation of

and meanwhile
air pollution was
regulated and the avenues
besieged and the surfaces of structures
reduced to humidors for propaganda

a small cup of wine and a trail of breadcrumbs
led me to your shadow
my only solace
as I sought out
as I defied liver bone and heart
as I stepped out of the way of the truncheon and boot
the uniforms on the street and badges defying justice
innocence and victimhood reduced to
black and white
the classic dichotomy of cop mentality
and not too relevant when handcuffed to the back seat

unkempt in County blues I searched
back to perdition
scraping the cinder block walls with initials
with a heart
and a poisoned arrow

through the bombed-out city I hunted
as the pillagers and the looters
fenced spoils in the courtyards of foreign castles

I endured on a whim while some faint music trickled
from a tinny conch

back to sea I roam

Poet Jay Passer


Im off, to stretch my legs.
Cold and early.
Streaks of stars
blink against crackerjack
I turn away.
Its worse than cable TV,
worse than looking in the
I decide on the park, some cruel bench
to stall consciousness for a spell.
I open the door
to a long flight of stairs.
To naked cats scrambling.
To clouds so palpably
A city square park.
Some monument hidden in the trees
declared incumbent
by hostile civic misanthropy.
The city propped on
stilts, on
exported governing,
on me-first belligerence.
Dogs leading banal humanoids
through crayon-drawn tufts of grass.
Its childhood
speaking through a worm hole.
I hear voices,
foreign argot,
rhetoric spray-painted on moving vans
and alleyway walls.
Its childhood speaking.
I am looking out the window.
Or walking
down the street.
I am sitting
on a bench as the sidewalk squatters awaken,
loved by neither cosmos or God:
the double agents of
On the bench in Washington Park,
dwarfed beneath lean towers
of a chalk cathedral
as the Asian ladies dance.   
Ocean floating,
another excuse for the sky,
threatening flood.
I tilt my head,
its always the same songbird;
news flash informing brain cells
of impending war.
I go home to a single room,
the room is my home,
at $220 per week its admirable enough.
I open the window,
only to close it again.
The fan quit spinning about a week ago.
I pace the room.
I hike up to the roof,
I come back to the room.
Sometimes I eat something, then,
later, I use the plumbing.
Sunlight streams through cracks in the walls.
I turn away.
I turn away from the mirror
as you fashion your hair up in pythons.


they come after hours
to power-wash the sidewalks
its 3 in the morning
but at 6 AM sharp expect the recycling truck
a tank sans weaponry
to pull up at the back door
of the restaurant across the street
dont forget the crows
in brusque conversation
perched above the brimming
they come
the noisemakers
there are many others as well
they laugh in the basement of my subconscious
they boil like blood out of a cooked brain pan
they run in the streets like maddened bulls
they are not too joyous
they are not very smart
these ones
who come
to plague my keyboard
the sidewalks
my estuaries
the gutters my intuition
borne from the sewers, the end results of
my muses


I assassinated a cockroach today

is that wrong
in the eyes of God?

squashed that little bastard good
in the manner of third-world country prison cuisine

am I a fascist, a megalomanic slob?
am I a killer

in the eyes of God?


I think Ill simmer some rice
the man next door coughs heavily
my only entertainment is the radio
I used to compare eyes to headlights
the rain keeps down the pollutants
songs are essential in the kitchen.

we have it made in America
maybe if he didnt smoke so much
steam heat knocks upon the silences
once I inked eyes on my fingertips
seasons are short like classical haiku

I just might steam some asparagus.

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