Three Poems by William Taylor Jr.

The Savoy Tivoli

has been here on Grant Street
in North Beach since 1907,
when it was one of the first new bars
to rise up after the quake and fire
put everything to ruin.
I first drank here some 20 years ago,
and I remember the room being full
of people and crazy energy,
and me thinking, wow,
San Francisco, what a place!
Alive with music and poetry and everything,
just like in the movies!
Now it’s a Thursday evening in 2017
and the joint is empty.
The old fellow who works the door
says hello and asks for my ID
even though I’m half a century old.
Sorry, he says, it’s what I do.
I tell him it’s okay, because it’s true, it’s what he does,
and there are plenty of people out there
doing things of a much more sinister nature,
so I choose not to judge.
I get a wine and sit at a table adrift
in a sea of empty tables.
The security guy’s reading a book
and eating snacks,
talking to the bartender about Donald Trump.
A listless sadness drifts about
but there’s a prettiness to it.
I sit on the open patio and watch the North Beach folk
drift along the sidewalks through a quiet fog.
It’s like Hemingway’s clean, well-lighted place,
except the lighting’s not so good.
It’s a bit like being underwater,
or in some mythical netherworld emptied of time.
The jukebox plays melancholy
and me and a few other ghosts lose ourselves
in the music of it, thinking how if the world
doesn’t come back for us it wouldn’t be
a tragedy.



All My Favorite Ghosts

These are mean times, cheap ass and faded.
Carol Doda is dead, and there’s precious little poetry
to be mined from these hours that have found us.
All my favorite ghosts have gone quiet,
and I’m wishing the world would just leave me here,
forever halfway through my second absinthe
on a Sunday afternoon at Vesuvio Café,
gazing at the passersby on Columbus Avenue,
wondering if they know any more than I
what it is that’s become of us.



The Book of Disquiet

I’m drinking wine and reading
Fernando Pessoa,
thinking of the woman
who, years ago now,
introduced me to his work.
She was beautiful and sad
and not quite right in the head,
and I was immediately smitten.
We shared some perfect hours
drinking absinthe in North Beach cafes,
brushing hands and legs beneath wooden tables
among the tourists and Beatnik wannabes
on a handful of August afternoons.
At some point she decided
I wasn’t worth the time
or trouble, and rightly so.
I think of her now,
as the melancholy
hours drift,
all pretty and distant and strange,
like a page
from The Book of Disquiet.

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