Market Street Angel
"Approach pain and suffering
with curiosity and tenderness"
— Buddhist Saying
Mostly rich people go to the Symphony.
At the pre-concert talk, the conductor
calls the canon we will hear
a musical handshake across six centuries.
He says if you listen closely,
the music will reveal its secrets.
The violins swell like ocean waves,
green and crashing through the moon.
The conductor is an acrobat, an astronaut,
a genius, but in the second tier
the sound is too small.
My friend who plays trumpet at other concerts
leans over the balcony
to get closer, and I wonder
what would happen here in an earthquake.
After the symphony,
a beggar with chocolate eyes
reminds me of a saint, except
he wants something from you.
No. No. Not pears or oranges. Please money.
And Karla, the woman
who sings at the BART station,
has gotten too thin.
The sores on her face have crescendoed,
and she looks suddenly
ten years older.
On the streetcar, old Chinese women
move closer to the door
to escape from the drunk man
who reeks of urine.
They all live in my neighborhood
and will be riding
to the end of the line,
where Mama Ocean's ebb and flow
drifts in through the open
At the Haight Street Circus,
nineteen year olds with shaved heads,
henna tattoos, and pierced navels
wait for nothing at the corner.
By the Red Victorian Theatre,
a tall woman in 7-inch
leopard spike heels
wears a leather miniskirt that reveals
too many secrets.
with sores on her face,
has migrated from the BART station.
She gets on the 71
to spend a night at the beach.
Like anyone who lives on the street,
all of her secrets are gone.
She rolls out her sleeping bag
on the sand
where a Goddess Moon
shines her light on everyone.
Her body is holding on
to a thin row of stars
that is leaving for the Pleiades.
Her voice is already on
a distant journey, but she sings
until three o'clock in the morning.