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poetry City Lights

In multicultural San Francisco, poet Peter Neil Carroll captures the local support for refugee rights.

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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.