the coffee shop lady

the coffee shop lady

i watched her from two tables over
fidgeting with mismatched salt and pepper shakers
her pencil-like fingers moving them methodically
as though they were pawns on a chessboard

her tea, like her body, had long ago lost warmth
now contained in a paper cup and plastic lid
where angel’s hair clouds once pushed
like cotton circles against celestial seasonings splashes

an oversized oval-shaped chipped broach
held her too-shiny blouse modestly shut
three buttons from the top
slightly off center to cover any indecency

her smile was warm, engaging each new patron
and with kind eyes she appeared to weep for their sins
knowing that none who crossed her path
was righteous

i watched her fingers as much as her eyes
blanketed with skin looser than her morals had ever been
and i felt ashamed that i had not known her as a child
perhaps i would have lived life better





tin cup music

as mornings grow colder i am reminded of a woman curled next to a steam vent in an effort to warm herself. a small tin cup like you might find in an army surplus store was positioned near her exposed face as the cold nipped away at her dignity. some faces are unforgettable. hers was one.

tin cup music complete

tin cup music

life’s story was etched on her face
carved with pocket-knife memories
rubbed in with grammar school erasers
and colored like heavy wet fog
on a stinson beach winter’s morning

smiles were kept tucked in her pocket
until a coin rang out like handel’s messiah
hitting the bottom of her tin cup
a reminder of how far she had fallen
in a life written like a fourteen-line sonnet

noise from darkened streets and shadowed corners
became comforting street sounds
as she curled in her coarse wool army blanket
now clutched to her chin and pushed by her toes
until she found sleep in her cocoon of warmth

then a little girl jumped on chalk-drawn squares
skipped rope and laughed while running into the wind
and peeked around corners in games of hide and seek
oh, she chased her puppy and hugged her kitten
in dreams constructed with yesterday’s pieces

awakened, she wondered when she last cried
tears no longer fell easily
and the gurgling complaints in her belly
reminded her that morning erased dreams
as easily as dreams erased the pain of living

the leap


the girl on a pier



the leap

her scarf rippled red in the breeze
flapping like a mariner’s flag
erratic as her thoughts had been
when she wept on my shoulder

i watched from a distance now
my hollow words returning to me undelivered
no postage due, in a chamber, a tube

she inched forward
sunglasses still diverting her tears
ponytailed hair now almost limp
as her body would be

i watched, unable to move now
each of my steps matched
as she inched closer
to her destiny

dull gray wood was painted with age like death
she was gone
sunglasses laying where she had been
nothing more

a momentary hole in the vast ocean
an eternal hole in my heart
“let me go when i go” she had asked
so i did

so young, so full of life
until life betrayed her
and life support was no answer
now the sea would support her

that is life



never before had my first glance been at fingernails
yet there she stood
slender in her lamb’s skin miniskirt
long flowing hair matching that of a hundred others
on haight street

her slender fingers wrapped part-way round the metal pole
haight street
ashbury street
linear words hanging over her head like a circular diadem

still, her fingernails
ten nails, ten fluorescent colors
adding color to an intersection that thrived
in colorful stories

for decades young women had worn miniskirts
long hair flowing in the breeze
photos snapped beneath the famous signs
smiles, legs, and now…fingernails

i heard her laugh from a distance
never knew her name
never tasted her smile
but could have fallen in love

with fluorescent painted nails
gripping a post beneath street signs
which had remained silent
through so many colorful stories to tell

san francisco smiles

CableCar powell & market

san francisco smiles

she was hanging from the car
at the powell and market terminal
making her way to california street
before returning to russian hill

i saw her coat,
the color,
avocado green,
before i saw her body.

i admired her hat
before her eyes.

the car, like most, was full
but her decision to hang from the platform
showed her tourist status

she waved at chinese residents walking
their shuffle step from chinatown
and twisted her body into a pretzel shape
to measure the gap between seasoned drivers
and the open-air bus

her avocado green coat walked away
at the end of the powell/mason line;
her burgundy hat tilted to one side
and i could only guess the color of her eyes.

i only knew that for one day in san francisco
mine smiled

bicycle rentals

bicycle rentals

the gray bridge

they were rented bicycles
on a borrowed bridge and a stolen day

we did more walking and pushing, than riding
as i guarded your smile
watching for potholes, listening to sea lions
observing the formation of small waves
and whispered words on your lips
with equal interest

you were steady on your bicycle
with only an occasional sign of imbalance
followed by your confident laugh
and a tighter grip on your handlebars

that mass of painted-orange steel seemed small
when you smiled
and smaller yet when you laughed

barking sea lions and the blue waters of the bay
grew strangely quiet when our eyes met

that was san francisco in all her glory
with the smell of sour dough bread
and the measured clanging noise of the cable car bell
when eyes kissed with the passion of lips

and only wide-eyed tourists dared to notice
with their nervous out-of-town giggles
treasures to take home
while wishing to pocket them as their own

a soldier and a dreamer

a soldier and a dreamer


sitting on a mended wooden chair
surrounded by rawlings baseballs
swallowed in the deep pocket of his worn wilson’s glove
soft leather, his choice in ‘67

he recalled the plays, some flawless others not
ground balls never got past second base
when he wore that glove
so many years and memories ago

now the chair is in want of nails
the glove begs for lexol leather cleaner
and both, loving care
while neither has his attention

behind him, she sorts through photographs
remembering years before him
looking back at a previous lover
when mornings were born in black and white

the war took him, as wars do to young men
and made him old before his time
then spit him out like copenhagen chewing tobacco
and returned his body but not his mind

yet some, even the war rejected
not able to lay their bodies down
though wishing to play the game or die
in a way he never approved of

now he sits on a mended wooden chair
holding a worn wilson’s glove, a few beaten base balls
and wishes that he was on second base
stopping ground balls and memories


The scarcity of springs in Palestine made it necessary to collect rain-water in reservoirs and cisterns.

Cisterns were very important in the land of Israel because of the long dry season and the relatively few natural springs. But a broken cistern was practically worthless. Cracked rock or crumbling masonry could hold only a small quantity of dirty water, or no water at all.

Jeremiah 2:13 – For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.