poetry City Lights
By Peter Neil Carroll
NOTHING ON THE THAN THE WHILE
IS SOUL SMELL THEY ARE
HARDER OF EVAPORATING
-- Mahmoud Darwish
Step into the fabled bookshop, history slaps your face—
this city of poets—Ferlinghetti greets Ginsberg’s Howl,
prints the book, gets arrested for obscenity, wins in court.
Three score later, step outdoors, a human rainbow
sanctifies the streets: old immigrants, new refugees,
America’s loose parts still roll to the continental edge.
Pavements dense, some on crutches, some just stoned,
agile schoolboys kicking soccer balls through traffic,
smoky scent of fried rice, tourists agape at NUDE GIRLS!
A dyed blonde with tattooed biceps carries a cat, a chihuahua,
a red umbrella. One aged copper-skin gent in a pressed suit
mutters curses, making his way up Columbus into Broadway.
Coming down in four shades of hair, four Latinas command
the sidewalk, laughing at what happened last night, maybe
will happen tonight. Why not? says one. It’s a free country.
Above us all, five banners—four verses and a fifth—
fly off the façade of City Lights Bookstore—
San Francisco, street life to die for, to die without.
Peter Neil Carroll has published five collections of poetry, including An Elegy for Lovers (Main Street Rag, 2017) and The Truth Lies on Earth: A Year by Dark, by Bright (Turning Point, 2017).
“City Lights” was first published in the Marin Poetry Anthology (XXI), 2018.