In San Francisco, Market Street runs from the Bay to the Rainbow Hill.
A straight ascent, tramcars, trolley cars, taxis rise from the sea to the sky.
Somewhere, in between the city skyscrapers and the bijou boutiques, lies the Tenderloin, an underworldly place, that parallels the everyday of San Francisco. An otherworldly shadow, not much spoken of, not much admitted to, passed by, passed over – but it doesn't go away.
Meaty, "main meal of the day", smells carry on the air
The burnt out fag end day grinds up the last part of its hill
Its gears slipping and complaining like the cable cars
Weary workers worry to their hives
The honey calling home
As crouched night-crawlers
Blinking at the dark
Appear from closed doorways
Always in the shadow of sly deeds
Into the streets they take their wares
With hair all dressed in neon green and red
Sequined silvered baubles blink from come on shrieking windows
Christmassed all year round
And night sounds coming on in waves
Now bars and pubs blend bottle-banging music
As the Muzak of the Jukes jar and jam
Some notes might be mellow
But the sticky jell-o of a multitude of tunes congeals to only noise
Cars, trucks, taxi cabs
The drunken parts of men that sit in flashing dark
Their shouting conversations float out with the bands
They come to find their missing lives
The promise lost
That floats on every bloated face
Their missing home
Their lost purposes
Beer dreams drown hurt confusions
Helping men forget their pointlessness
Hip-swaying, lip-pouting, finger-snapping girls come out like gaudy, gadding butterflies
Not old enough to drink
But bone-old eyes assessing dimes and dollars to the cent
All selling innocence accordingly
Bright eyed -
Too bright -
The pupils only commas in their story here
They form conveyor service
Slick as silky crime
Although their honest grime more honourable than business in the banks
As the street begins its night
The first of soup-dispensing goodies open shop.
Pavlovian, sad dreamers working god
A soapy, smiling, slimy god
And all will be forgiven.
The black souls scraped of all clogged sins like furred-up arteries.
"Eat, repent and go to heaven".
A siren calls, a lost part-creature loses it,
Its black blood thick molasses widening as watchers pass,
Not even breaking stride.
Cold cops descend, like blowflies blue and black,
All shiny laying yellow maggot crime scene tapes
And spraying all-important macho scents of territory.
A gay man with his trimmed and powdered hound walks on.
His smile unmoveable, his world all neat and ordered, chaos not allowed.
Nothing ever touches him.
The gangs so intent on cool approval of themselves
Admire reflections of their colours in dirty glass
Whilst wiping out each other.
Broken things, part men and women, every one of them.
On the corner, under sodium-sick light
The old crone leans and weighs her weight like iron on a flimsy stick,
Though no stick sturdy enough now to carry all that burden of her emptiness,
That red rock of despair, the unforgiving self of her, too heavy for this world.
The next life cannot lighten things too soon.
The young girls twitter like the hungry birds they are,
They warm her old cold bones and her regrets.
A John pulls in at littered kerb and does swift business with a child -
Too young to tell which gender -
The pale-faced, doughy man takes off his prize, his momentary splendour
To a wasteland alley, and disappoints the pair of them.
A million times this night
The grey crone cackles at it all
As ghetto king comes strutting with his silver box of bees,
Their buzzing rhythmic as the fucking.
He kicks the stick she leans on out from under,
And she hisses curses as his spittle hits her face.
His hate is evident, as loud as hers.
This is the gutter they have gathered on,
The sin sinks to the mud that they're embedded in.
And we pass by