Erlend Øyes, a semi-famous Norwegian,
is finishing his set at the Cafe du Nord.
He’s thin as a mantis and sings quietly,
smiling under Kurt Rambis glasses. I listen,
but I’m thinking of Virginia, how I’d never seen
fog like this, or smelled more pot than cigarettes,
or watched a man march down a median
thrashing his fist and chanting No More War.
No one had ever tried to sell me roses
through an electrolarynx in a coffee shop.
I'd never walked rainbowed streets where old men
stared at me as if I were a croissant, and realized
this is how a woman feels…my God!
I remember visiting Berkeley a few years ago
when I was still in college, eyeing
the square contemptuously because students,
sunglassed in the latest Donna Karen frock,
protested for beetles, and whatever counterculture
had been, this was only for appearance:
a sort of esoteric hippie-chique. I now see
I was wrong to blame the city,
to fault style for its own sake.
Because the skyline of pastels from Bernal Heights,
the vampires in polyester tuxes
modeling their way down Haight Street,
they energize, sure, but they do something more,
they make me happy. And even Boethius
languishing in a sixth century Roman prison
understood there is no greater goal than that.
Forgive me. I come from towns that exude ordinary
and above me fog alights onto the city
and The Amazing Winter Flowers are now singing
about seasides in falsetto with a British accent
they’ve affected, burning incense off the end
of the stage, and, you know, I want to hug them.
I want to hug them.