Poems by Thomas Piekarski

                                     Capitol Gain                                         

While Monterey is magical, San Francisco                                
amply sublime, Paris radiant, London wondrous                
with resplendent cupolas, museums and bridges,
Sacramento is the epicenter of modern progress.

                  This Capitol is where it all happens. Here initiators
of change flourish, great ideas brewed, with billions
spent for the benefit of multicultural constituents.
From these steps the great state of California

is formed. Fitted. Functions. Leads the world in
innovation. Nobody wants to confiscate your guns,
buddy, this isn’t old Tombstone or Dodge. You can
carry a piece if you want, but please just don’t shoot.

                  Welcome autumn rains record-setting, grasses green,
temporary respite from drought while wildfires rage
in the Southeast. Man can’t overcome Mother Nature
so those fires carry on while we get needed water.

Recently on Facebook I wrote “Some politicians
flip-flop. Most lie. And the worst are cockroaches,
cowardly, who thrive in dreadful damp darkness.”
But here they pass laws for the betterment of us all.

                  Life is a dream, an elaborate illusion. And so we
might as well roll the dice, let it all hang out while
we have the chance. For this cosmic miracle can’t
last forever, so there is absolutely nothing to lose.

Those protesters can rant and rage all they want.
I’ll sit here perfectly still on a bench along a broad
pedestrian path, with a frontal view of the Capitol.
It’s dome painted ashen gray, but it should be gold.

                  Wondering why the clouds overhead don’t implode,
why that sky-high palm is so skinny, why it sways
when there’s no discernable wind. Roses withered.
A crow caws thrice in succession. Hello my Avalon.

Hello mercurial rise, for the Japanese maple
shimmers crimson in the glistering sunlight.
Helmeted cops race bikes around as many sexy
women jog along the sidewalk in tight leotards.
Here in the Capitol city, blacks and whites don’t
fight. Hispanics marry Asians, whose children
trade tweets, bank on love to stock open souls
and foil anyone who would dash their dreams.

This morning I drove down Broadway past
the Post Office, Thai restaurant, dive bars,
Tower Books and hospital to view the mighty
Sacramento River as it rambles from Shasta Lake.

                  Marina on my left, the river at my right, I watched
a replica clipper ship, its masts barren, chug against
the flow, the passengers energized, motor powered
by diesel that left a thick gray haze in the chilly air.

A busy squirrel plucked a piece of discarded rag
on the bank, scurried off, so excited at the find, dug
a hole in soft earth and buried it so that it would be
saved for what future use I’m sure I’ll never know.

                  Happy days aren’t here again since they never left,
and can’t be stopped so long as the river still flows,
isn’t drained from excessive use by the farmers and
exploding population whose thirst is insurmountable.

The old rail yard once a bustling hub
is now a toxic waste site, abandoned, its
ramshackle buildings spooky as Dracula’s
infamous castle. The legislators who huddle

                  in the Capitol are pondering what to do with it.
They’re resourceful, creative, but may well tank
if the river does go dry one day and threatens
the freedoms we take for granted in this state.

Rain, rain, rain, oh let it rain. Rain on heads
of government, rain until the dams can’t hold,
rain that our story will be told to generations
so distant they may not resemble us in the least.

                  A chopper hovers above the Capitol, its blades
slicing the sky to bits, so loud and obstreperous.
Yet it’s necessary security, as we must make sure
no harm will come to our elected representatives.

                                      Status Quo

You could dump a thousand business cards in a fish bowl
and pick one out at random. This would reflect the chance
I stand of becoming a national treasure. For the most part
I’m anonymous. Jimmy Stewart is dead and gone, the great
Elvis Presley taken too early, and Alexander Hamilton felled
by a bullet from the gun of Aaron Burr. But they’ve never
really left us. There is always a keen sense of their presence.
When in the shower lathering with shampoo or making love
with your significant other they are always there with you.
And this is what immortality is. It’s not some magical state
bridging the gap between this life and some unlikely fantasy.

More and more we tend to want to block out salient facts then
substitute them with cyber stories. Social media, fake news,
reality shows and propaganda have blurred the lines between
those truly immortal people and the most ephemeral nonsense.
All over the world we see bloody conflicts, the righteous ones
always thinking God is on their side, might makes right, those
who believe differently deserving to be exterminated like bugs.
But the vast majority of such pathetic warriors are just like me,
totally anonymous, absent from the collective conscience, no
claim to fame, and with identities completely inconsequential,
by default not contributing to to the greater good of this world.

There is a lot of talk about colonizing Mars, forward-thinking
people like Elon Musk and Richard Branson putting up money
to accomplish this goal, perhaps worthy since climate change
is picking up steam. The gears of industry dictate that we must
pour more waste into the air, choke off this magnificent miracle
of a planet, and so seek refuge on a barren orb with no surface
water and poor atmosphere. Some day we may go scrambling
as though armies of ants with gasoline poured on them, dizzy,
bickering, looting, lacking food and oxygen, our precious cities
flooded and sacked. The duly immortal will be wiped away in
a tidal wave of vice, and we will then treasure only the police.

                           Side Ways

The cow jumped up and bumped its noggin
while playing in the hay. The horse of course
had no remorse when it kicked me in the shin.

I wondered if ever my number would come up
as I pined and sighed in the everglade. My wife
had died and I was quite beside myself with grief.

It was others’ belief that she went to heaven
draped in clouds like pink cotton candy,
but I surmise she resides on the other side.

                                      With Full Intent

Unspeakably bleak, replete with disharmonious moans of people
who gave up on love. These are the dour and the infamous ones
who rode the silver horse of fortune by way of plunder and vice
and paid the ultimate price. You might recognize them in public
wearing robes, fresh off the plane from Damascus, Rio, Hawaii.
Their demise was well documented, and yet they live among us,
specters carrying death warrants, with full intent to scare & scar.

                      Swimming in the Stream of Transformation

Railroad cars clatter at sunup
Mad Hatter day in wait   loud
traffic bashing the sound barrier

                                                                      Gulp java   shave   shower
close Google Chrome                
“contained enlightenment”

Cheery between wet ears
TV morning news vets
Muse on the run again
grief over Margaret bereaving
colder than stale rye toast

                                                                            her toes touch down on

Love’s tarmac 

Conundrum this morning   motorcycle roar
car alarms   skateboards   delivery trucks
Rush hour burrows full bore   so
“beat it” insists honest Injun
swimming in the stream of transformation

                                                                     Vishnu   Ra   Zeus   Jesus
reified throughout history
revised from time to time

So sportingly I split for
San Francisco   over Bay Bridge  
cross estimable Treasure Island
to tumble headlong upon
the mega-media metropolis

                                                      previously know as                

                                                                    New Albion    until Marshall
found gold and lucky 49ers
who’d struck it rich established
a bawdy Barbary Coast with their 
brothels   gambling halls   brawls
followed up by industrialists who
built this city not Rock n Roll

Flying by the seat of my britches   hello
city of love   heroin addiction   hippies
piercings   cable cars   movie stars
permit me passage please   open golden
gates   pantomimes   lattes   seals   bridges
cling to every molecule of my body

                                      Indispensable enterprises

AT&T and Transamerica anchored
transmogrified in soupy fog
Better to hang where the ferry docks
We’ll see   there goes
a tanager fluttering on
the fringe of iniquity

swimming in the stream of transformation

Pity the homeless bloke
in rags coiled up on busy Powell
asleep   half-full beer quart capped
Electric street car cables hum   buzz
Hungry tourists lined up outside
Tad’s steak house   await a shot at
his scrumptious world-famous sirloin
Union Square   Saks Fifth Avenue
Chase   Sir Francis Drake Hotel
where at the top floor Starlight Room
women in tuxes puff cigars

                                                    fully integrated   amalgamated revanchists

              refuse to take yes for an answer

Angry dragon sculptures guard
pagoda entrance to Chinatown
Candied duck hung by the neck
in the window   “yuk”   White men
called them “stinky Chinks”
when they built railroads   died deep
in mines   apothecaries   fishermen
cooks   washerwomen reviled
These days they’re free to decide
why they live and when to cry

No no no don’t want to climb 200 steep steps

to reach Coit Tower   too tiring   burns feet

                                                                           Me strolling Market instead
Bloomingdales   Cyril Magnin
Nordstroms glamorous   storied
bastions of economy   echo
at head of treacherous
Tenderloin drug zone   don’t go
or maybe get mugged

swimming in the stream of transformation

Financial district is Wall Street West
Deutsche Bank   stock exchange   sushi
Starbucks on every block   emblematic

                                                                          skyscrapers shield the light
make sidewalks clammy   cold
Entrepreneurs prissy   preen
while transient psychics dream
of flagrant exploitation  
global domination   “dominion”

Nobody riding the regal carousel
at Yerba Buena Gardens   ticket taker
just now opening the door   luxurious
painted ponies   lions   camels   ostrich
stationary   lonely as the holy ghost

                                        AMC Metreon Imax LED display provides film titles

                                                                          that are the current rage
depending on one’s taste
to be or not entertained

Moscone Center christened after a murdered mayor

booked for the statewide convention
mid-morning sun beating on it like a drum
Its China-supplied stainless steel exterior  
gleams   substitutes as a “virtual” mirror

                                         Twenty fat pigeons fidgeting on rail at subway station

                                                                              where Buddhists flow like syrup
anarchists flaunt fantastic tattoos
commuters doze   rats cavort &
underground tunnels vaporize
in the world’s collective psyche

Rest at Café Trieste  
Double-decker tour bus runs a red
Thumb the entertainment tabloid
its headline reads “Queer Freaks
and Theater Geeks”   I sniff
exotic coffee bean samples   Sumatra
Dark French Supreme   Vienna Roast

                                                                      my persona under construction

                                 swimming in the stream of transformation 

                                                                              Incredibly inebriated scrounge
jogs up Sansome pontificating
you must accept the Savior
or suffer your soul’s demise
Protestor roaming this district
all in white   has a red blotch
stained on his crotch   holds
a placard pleading for restraint
from unwanted penis removal

           Pulsing data mega-beams   over   under   through giant structures

                                                   cumulous cascading white as rice way high up 

in minds of affirmative action actors
making a public spectacle of nudity
to an appreciative audience on
Embarcadero immersed in an oblong
shadow of the Pyramid building
Most of the nudists painted head
to toe like the living art they are

                                                                                          revisionist inculcation

     on its way from outer space   hinged upon

                                      swimming in the stream of transformation

During Haight’s heyday we sat
cross-legged on the cramped
Fillmore Auditorium floor
where attentive Bill Graham
sent us streams of great bands
Most among us quite stoned
Only a couple of filthy ragged
sofas in the back to make out on
We watched Pink Floyd   Janis
Sha Na Na   Jefferson Airplane  
Little Richard   Doors   Animals
Jethro Tull   go down in history 
for the benefit of humanity

San Francisco international flair
evident everywhere    blending
of races   migrants   take to music
unusual cuisine   strip clubs like
the Condor on Broadway across
from the beginning of Little Italy
club at which for the public
Carol Doda danced topless on
a platform up two stories above
traffic & aghast pedestrians
big floppy boobs bobbing                     
Saint Francis Hotel
stately as ever
resurrects fond memories
of when I got drunk there
at a book release party
struck gold   although
wobbly & wonky wound
up on the 33rd floor
entwined with one
of the “cutest” contributors

                       Laundry hanging from fire escapes

narrow alley named Jack Kerouac

            Ferry Building clock chimes   Hog Island oyster fest  tangy cioppino

                                                                                     to gather and hold

                                         swimming in the stream of transformation


About the Author
Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly and Pushcart Prize nominee. His poetry and interviews have appeared widely in literary journals internationally, including Nimrod, Portland Review, Mandala Journal, Cream City Review, Poetry Salzburg, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Boston Poetry Magazine, and Poetry Quarterly. He has published a travel book, Best Choices In Northern California, and Time Lines, a book of poems.