By Jack Foley

the ghosts are all here—Philomene, John, Tony, Bill, Stuart, Jim—but they are all friendly, taking in the health-giving sea air

and the glorious Southern California sunshine

weirdos everywhere and of course medical marijuana (“come in and see if you qualify”)

and a store that said “Rafiki” (“friend”)

and ice cream and children dressed for Halloween

and many, many breasts partially or sometimes nearly wholly revealed (SoCal!)

I walked with the Beatniks, led by Frankie Rios, poet, ex-con, ex-drug addict,

and the flag he carried with an emblem that was simultaneously Wallace Berman’s Aleph and a soft pretzel

postcards available but could not tell the half

of the life that exploded in this mad, improbable, only in Southern California place—

and I so wanted to join them

in their “voluntary poverty” and their “Art is Love is God” and their joy and laughter

and their collective “drive towards non recognition”

and their suffering and sentimentality and their self-congratulations and the way they reminded me as we walked

of Charles Ives’ song, “General William Booth Enters The Kingdom of Heaven”

and the fact that most of them got lost went the wrong way on that confusing, marvelous, heaven-haven

where we visited the poetry walls (conveniently located near the public rest rooms)

and might have sung if any of us could remember a tune

and the six that remained together (including a famous Art Historian)

had slurpies and pizza and ice cream and noted the Everything

that kindly came blazing down from the heavens and told us a Dirty Joke.


Categories: History, Poetry