Bus Stop Chant

San Francisco cool breeze and midnight of half lights— A city a man could be anywhere in. But here I am on Mission at a bus stop smelling the garbage cement and the alley air. Take me to the Sunset, mind, the bus won’t come. Take me to the park— I want to see the camelias in bloom even if by streetlight. I haven’t seen the Pacific in a time. Why not be there on the ash-can sand with the wind in my face And nothing but loneliness for acres and acres and acres of water. Yes, take me to the beach, the bus won’t come. Leave me alone in the open air of the city night, unencumbered by the cumbers of life. I should go to the zoo and hop the fence, and visit the monkeys on their island. I should go to Northbeach coffee shops to dig the scene. Or set me in front of the Sir Francis Drake And let me order a chaffeur for a tour of the intricate streets. The possibilities exceed the limits of my imagination. Just ask a wino on the street and there’s a dozen more. Take me, mind, to the memories of a junkie, or of a longshoreman of the last generation, the bus won’t come. Take me to the haunts of a woman with time on her hands that won’t wash off. There’s a lot I’ve never seen—it’s a big city. A city a person could get lost in. Lose me at the Marina, mind, the bus won’t come. Lose me among the tourist traps and convention dives. I want to see the litter in the street of half-eaten sidewalk-stand crab louies and not know which way to go. I want to interview the madams at the brothels. Show me, mind, the unpaid occupations of daytime officeworkers and part-time salesclerks. Let’s go to a movie in Chinatown. Let’s look at the tins of pressed duck and the plastic streetcars amd the ivory earrings made in Japan. Let’s examine the rotting produce of corner groceries. Let’s discuss politics with an alcoholic philosopher. There are hundreds of bars and liquor stores in the city— enough to fill a telephone book with lost souls and wasted youths. Let me see the signs of vanished buildings, the bus won’t come. Where are the smells of past Christmasses? Where are the apartments of the rich? Show me into their back doors, I’ve never been there and I’m curious. Where are the miseries of the poor of this city? Let me trace them to their cockroach beds. How are the bookstores and libraries? Not very busy at this time of night. Let’s windowshop for fashions on Polk, Union, and Geary. I could be anywhere breathing new air. I could be visiting a hundred damp doorsteps imagining the corners of a hundred bathrooms and the warmths of a hundred bedroom oblivions. Take me to the rooftops, mind, the bus won’t come. Let me see the skyline. I want to feel the chill of street-lit clouds. I want to see the distance And weigh the sparkle of a million useful lights against the vacancies of a million offices. Let me examine the wonders of comic-book stores, of pet stores, toy stores, and auto-part stores. I want to inspect doleful laundrymats and sweaty pawnshops. How many millions of clocks in this city? All ticking the same seconds. The same seconds overlooked by husbands and wives returning from parties in their cars, By retiring file-clerks glancing through their curtains, By young actresses wiping off their make-up, By unmarried taxi drivers turning into numbered driveways, And by students with their written and unwritten books, All looking through worlds of windows mirroring an unseen scene for every eye that’s closed upon a dream. There are multitudes of things to do and everything is different. Take me to an empty bank, the bus won’t come. Take me to a hallowed hall, to a busy intersection, and to a cheap variety store. I’d like to see the galleries and museums, even though everything in a city is a gallery and a museum. I want to read the walls of schoolyards for evidence about the lives of children. I want to visit the junkyards to see the arts of the middle class. Does everyone have a telephone? Does everyone need a car? How many have money in the cookie jar they wouldn’t miss? Take me to the confession booths of Catholic churches. I want to witness the common sins of housewives, barbers, and plumbers. What’s happening in the synogogues of a hundred Jewish mothers? What are their sons-in-law digesting in their beds? What could be better than counting the bricks in the wall across the street? Or staring at the gumspotted sidewalk and the tire-marked pedestrian crossing? There’s no one here to tell me what to do so why don’t I do anything I want? Why don’t I call a cop and complain about the weather? Why isn’t it warm enough on Mission Street? I’d say. Why don’t I hail a cab and take it to the bathrooms of the bus depots? Why don’t I visit dogs and cats in their backyard gardens? Why don’t I preach revolution on the steps of city hall? Why don’t I sing lullabies and serenades to the secretaries of the financial district? Whuy don’t I challenge with the dictionary D.J.s in their musical booths. Why don’t I invade the hospitals and alarm the patients with Persian poetry? Take me to the refrigerators of the wives of store owners, the bus won’t come. Take me to the girlfriends of teenage dropouts, the bus won’t come. Take me to the studios of half-crazed artists, the bus won’t come. Take me to the TVs of the unemployed, And to the midnight reading stands of little women, And to the dark motel rooms of strangers, And to the stale garages of used-car salesmen. The bus won’t come, the bus won’t come.

17 May 1979, San Francisco