The Things the Pretty Girls Say
It's the last day of Summer
as I sit at a sidewalk table
at a North Beach cafe
clinging to the hours
like a drowning man,
and after a few glasses of wine
I believe all the stories
the sun has to tell,
I believe the things the pretty girls say
with their dream-fed smiles
and the movement of their tanned
and skinny arms,
and all these people at their tables
just like mine,
with their wine and their
tiny plates of food, their porcelain wives
and glimmering children,
surely they understand, just as I do,
that the world is made of magic after all,
and light will have the final say,
and the dark is just a nasty story
told by some demented dwarf
in a lonely basement
to keep the children in line,
and death is just a baseless rumor,
obsolete and powerless
in the face of one last hour
another glass of wine,
and the smell of this woman
at the table
next to mine.
For a good portion of my life I couldn't figure out why people liked steak.
I had nothing against meat, I liked meat just fine-
but in my parents' house, in the summer months,
every Sunday evening we had steak for dinner.
We were to consider it a treat, a delicacy,
something to look forward to.
When I saw people eating steaks on television or in movies
it seemed like a good thing, and their eyes lit up when they spoke of it.
But when my father put the plate in front of me
the slab of meat was always gray and joyless.
It tasted like nothing and each leathery piece was a chore to chew.
Our steaks were like that because that's
how my mom imagined they were supposed to be.
My dad would bring in the platter from the backyard grill
and present it to my mother for inspection.
They're not done, my mom would invariably say, look at all that blood!
It's not blood, my dad would reply, it's juice.
We can't eat them like that, take them back and cook them until they're done!
My dad would say something under his breath and then take the meat away
and bring it back a while later when there was no more juice or blood.
Then we'd all sit there at the table not saying much of anything.
We'd smother the meat in A1 Sauce and chew and chew and chew.
I'd put ketchup on mine, place it between two pieces of wonder bread
and pretend it was a hamburger.
My mother would scold me, telling me I didn't know
how to appreciate good things.
At some point at a friend's house, a restaurant, somewhere,
I had a steak in the manner they were meant to be consumed:
it was seared on the outside, but the thick cube of meat
was tender and juicy and red just beneath the surface.
I was startled at first; it was like nothing I’d ever experienced.
It tasted like all the colors of life and death and the blood and juice
dribbled down my chin and onto the plate, and I sopped it up
with a piece of bread and when it was gone I wanted more.
Things in general suddenly made a bit more sense to me,
and I wondered what else I had been missing out on.
It was then that a part of me first began to understand
that so much of life is spent simply recovering
the basic joys that others, through ignorance or malice,
are forever bent on stealing from us.
Playing Hooky on a Pretty Wednesday Afternoon
We're all broken beneath the sun,
but if you're lucky enough
to ocassionaly escape the trap of things,
it's surely the stuff of victory.
The trap you've built for yourself,
the trap others have built for you,
the trap of the world.
You left work early
with nowhere in particular to be.
The sun and sky are perfect
as you sit beneath them with your wine.
The afternoon is a stolen kiss
and the stones of the years fall from your pockets
as birds and children scurry them away.
In this gifted moment
ablsolve yourself of everything,
remember her kindly and with joy.
Breathe the air like an animal,
accept the day like a blessed curse,
not worrying so much
if you can't find an ending
for the poem.
William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. An Age of Monsters, his first book of fiction, was published by Epic Rites Press in 2011. The Blood of a Tourist (Sunnyoutside, 2014) is his latest collection of poetry. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was a recipient of the 2013 Acker Award.