2009 :: Issue 5/Fall :: Haunting Memories
Now you remember, you remember how it begins. It begins on the steep wet streets of san francisco, where you are a u.s. navy sailor, on liberty from your ship in the bay. You are a very young man, eager to wander drunken down dark empty alleys, in north beach, or downtown, or anywhere, because you are newly a man, a sailor, & that is what you think this city is for, being drunk, & peering around edges, & walking where you should not walk, hoping that danger will find you, provoke your soul & your mind, & you will become wild & crazy, & write poetry nobody ever before dared to write.
You’re drunk & ready, & you ramble at midnight down a dark alley in north beach, in & out of pools of light, through the echoes of your own steps, & then you see the door. You swear & you will always swear that it is a door like no other door, ornate, heavy, exotic, & it is slightly ajar & there is dark beyond, & dark & a dark fragrance drift out & you know that this is a moment like no other moment, that this moment marks an intersection with the mysterious & the deadly & the holy, & that beyond the door is not merely someone’s basement.
But you are not as ready as you hoped & thought & you pass by & do not enter, & the door & that moment like no other will become only a story, not to tell but to know, & always with regret. But for awhile you go back many times to what you are certain is the same alley, in the daytime & at night, every time you are in san francisco, & there is no such door anywhere.
Now you remember, you remember how it begins. It begins on the steep stone streets of hong kong & it is a couple of years since you saw & passed by the door in an alley in north beach, & you are on liberty from your ship in the harbor. It is your last day & your last night there & you want to see victoria peak, which is still mysterious & undeveloped, & you were told you can see china from the top. So you go even though it is now night & dark & the night is filled with fog & a cold wind blows from the sea. You ride the cog-railway to the top & then climb a dirt road from the last station, & you pass tombs set into the hillside along the dirt road, & then you walk out on the wide & open top of the peak, onto a strange stone pavement, into the fog & wind & dark. Suddenly in the tattered blackness you realize you do not know how wide this place is, or even what it is, and that you are lost. You run back & forth in panic but now you cannot find the dirt road. You are filled with terrible ancient fear, & you remember the door in the alley in san francisco, & you are certain it is at that moment open, for someone else perhaps. Or you wonder if perhaps you did enter the door after all, because that is how the magic works, & this is where it has led, & you wonder what will happen to you now. Then you see the lights of the railway station ragged through the fog below & you are saved. But saved from what, you do not know.
& now you remember, you remember how it begins. That this story of the door is your most secret & deep story, & a metaphor for many cities, but especially san francisco & what it has meant to your heart, & why even now you peer around edges & wait impatiently for the cold & transforming breath of holy sorcery in your life….