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While we were finishing last night’s pizza –

waiting on the quay for the tour to start –

a fog arrived from the Pacific.

We had left Fisherman’s Wharf in full sun –

the same sun that had peeled my forehead

drinking merlot al fresco at a wine bar

in Sausalito the day before.

I thought acerbically of the remark

Mark Twain, it is said, never made

about the coldest winter he had known

being a summer in San Francisco.

Whoever made it was Pulitzer Prize

material! Whenever, in the evenings,

we left our hotel on Geary Street

ocean winds would blow – in the mornings

the balmiest of breezes would soothe us!


The tour through the dank prison building,

with its stacked cells and warders’ walkways,

was of a place we had been many times –

with Edward G. Robinson, Burt Lancaster.

On still nights the lifers could hear music,

laughter from the Aquatic Park Bathhouse –

a cruel and unusual punishment.

This is the country of incarceration.

The Warden’s House and the Social Hall burnt down

as part of the Native American

occupation to reclaim promised lands.


On the return ferry brown pelicans

glided above us, like tawny galleons.

And I thought of the pretty black girl

dressed in a pristine white track suit night

after night, standing stock still, ignored

at one of the corners of Union Square.





© Copyright David Selzer
1 Response
  • Mary Clark
    July 2, 2017

    I’ve never been to San Francisco, except in the works of Armistead Maupin, but it’s apparently a place of varied, divergent, and overlapping angles, and both warm and cold, giddily upbeat and subtly sad. I get all this from your poem.

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