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.