The Man Inside Me

My surgeon checked on me
while the nurse hit the dilaudid
I gawked at him
“This man’s hands,” I thought,
“were inside me
more certainly
than any Filipino faith healer’s.”
He wore a green gauze gown
with an entrail train
had a knife in one hand
and needle and thread in the other
He was sweaty
from his last operation
I was almost jealous
Who had he been inside?
Peering through periscopes,
manipulating pincers,
with that level of concentration
it must feel like a tiny him was inside
those plumbers, accountants,
bowling lane technicians
Fluid began pooling around his feet
and he seemed to be shrinking in size
yet I trusted him completely
“Open wide,” he said,
“it’s time
to go back home.”

Listen to the Bell

My new thing is Zen meditation
I never would’ve thought
of trying it but
it’s either that or Prozac
I watch YouTube
a monk lectures,
“Now let’s listen
to the bell,” he says
The bell is a little brass bowl
he hits with a stick
The monk’s face says, “I’m serene”
and I believe it
Then the fire klaxons start up
at the SRO across the street
a medical examiner arrives
with a fire blaring truck
and the new guy upstairs
has burnt his cheesy toast
I can smell it
“Just wave a magazine, damnit!”
I shout because his smoke alarm
goes off so long I get worried
There’s bells going off
all the time around here
You’d think that little ‘ding’
of the brass bowl
wouldn’t have a chance
But, if I think on it awhile,
somehow it becomes
loud enough
to drown it all out

Following the Birds

“Don’t stop here.”
We were in separate cars
Tre and Tanya
in a beat up Hyundai,
and us, older in a nicer car
coming down the mountain
At the first place
we got phone reception
the kids pulled over, a narrow shoulder
“It’s dangerous here.”
I was anxious
Tre, so confident and strong
a year before, was acting strange,
distracted, hearing voices
He was 20, and for boys
if they can make it to 30
they’ll usually be alright
but he was right there
in the danger zone
and it looked like schizophrenia
“Check your Instagram at home!”
A month later
Tre and Tanya broke up
she had her own problems
and though he tried to get her back
his behavior was erratic
Then he disappeared
They found him
1,000 miles away, in Ohio
“I took the car
and followed the birds,” he said,
“they told me where to go.”
Ducks or geese or who knows what
but outside of Dayton
the birds were merely birds
that flew away
and left him all alone.

That Special Number

I’m at Caffe Grecco
writing in my journal
and hear this conversation
at the next table, it’s the man speaking
while his date nods, tosses her hair
and moves her foot beneath the table
to gently press his thigh:

“Do you know what a hash function is? A hash function—no matter what it will spit out 206 characters in a Tweet, so it’s pretty much, it’s like a one way function, it’s like, so it’s an arbitrary ruler set that needs to have a number of zeros at the end, so you get a…there’s a lot of different ways, it’s just an arbitrary set. It takes a certain amount of work. It’s like certain transactions. So it’s these transactions…so we’re going to take these transactions. So this is all like, like building a website. I don’t really care how your computer connects, everyone races to make this special number and then everyone approves it and you get money for guessing right.”

They’re looking deeply
into each other’s phones
As I try to write something
all I can hear is the man’s voice
on this sunny North Beach day
while the ghosts of poets and pirates
siesta in the alcoves
and leave the afternoon for lovers
who toss it away
along with the crumbs
and crumpled napkins.