The Decline & Fall of San Francisco

The Chinese waiter wearing
a stained gray vest
wipes the counter tops.
In the back kitchen
a cook is making pot stickers
and chow fun for me.
I'm sitting in a North Beach
Taiwanese restaurant alone
drawing octagons and writing these words.
The thousand bicycles rode up
Columbus and turned on Vallejo.
Many were covered with lights
their riders in Halloween costumes.
The last of the poets
in the Café Trieste
are drawing and writing
on the back of Fanny Renoir's painting.
I remember my first view of San Francisco
crossing the massive Bay Bridge,
her beauty beckoning me.
No longer can she welcome
those in need of love -
the owners gouging
a thousand dollars a room.

The Lost and Found Saloon
formerly the Coffee Gallery
now closed after almost 50 years.
Dino Valenti, and Janis sang there,
and a thousand poets read
their poems from its stage.
Lit cigarettes and beer bottles
flung at the worst
and most pompous poets,
applause stirring the best.
Where are you Danny Propper,
Gene Ruggles, Wayne Miller,
Carol Lee Sanchez, Jerry Kamstra,
Steve Levine and Gregory?
Blue, what a regal beauty you were!
The voices diminished
and now silent.

© Copyright by Allen Cohen. All rights reserved.

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