the city conflates time, conflates 1960s East Bay with 1970s Seattle Lake Union

where we once lived in an apartment building under the freeway

above the industrial flats on the lakeshore where I couldn’t find work

of course it was all long ago

now I drive through it in my Toyota 4-wheel drive, and that was in the last century

my kids (who weren’t born then) are grown up and I don’t know, I drive forward into whatever this new life is about

at night, you know how night conflates one night with some other nights

conflates the twilight dusk with deep midnight, conflates this regular night

with those long nights when I had worked as a bouncer in a strip joint

till 3 or 4 AM and then went out into the Bay Area to find someplace to sleep

these avenues sleek with shiny dark fur of of night (or it’s just my dirty glasses, it’s just the windshield wet with rain), these streets and boulevards shine with black light

of the incipient universe immediately beneath all surfaces

ready to well up like pools of obsidian tar in the L.A. tar pits adjacent to Wilshire Blvd

these avenues and blvds “run through my mind” “drive thru

my thoughts” shimmering with refractions of distant headlights and street lamps

in soft vague blackness of distance ahead of all this

mixing, in flux, churning, alive—all surfaces like the coastline against the infinite sea of night

night universe, I’m driving through this city (which conflates Seattle, Brooklyn, Oakland, L.A., etc.) all these boulevards of course connect, you can get there from here

if—if—I can find the onramp for 5

past several bright liquor stores or gas stations in the otherwise dark blocks and streets (these office buildings, these warehouses and industrial blocks that used to be the long ago landscape I lived above—several flights up—in the apartment bldg which took a flight of stairs up to the big front door, up on the hill—are dark

and empty at night) I decide I might as well stop and ask for directions

it might save time (though I am not in a rush, I am just driving who knows how far)

(whatever the distance might be, just go), I turn in and park

at the fluorescent glare illuminating the little glass booth of an old 1930s-style gas station, where I can see a couple guys inside talking

a couple of sinewy grizzled guys in baseball caps (about my age)

they eye me warily, smirking as I enter and ask where I can get the freeway

“Which?”

“The 5.”

“The 5?” one raises his eyebrow; the other guy makes some remark I don’t catch;

they both laugh—”Yeah, the 5,” I repeat—

they give me some weird, patently useless directions (“Well, yep, go back down to the main boulevard, the main thoroughfare back down about a mile,” etc.) that are more in the nature of some joke between them than information directed at me

so, feeling foolish, I say “thanks,” and shrug, and their laughter follows me out into the night—but somehow I wind around those “south of Market” streets

I find an onramp and take it—not knowing whether I’m heading north or south, at least I am on the freeway!)—heading south, it seems

—speeding down empty lanes of the late night freeway like 101 south through San Francisco—

arriving, if you can call it that, at some Stanford University or immense private library

(wide expanse of grassy lawn, like the Seattle Asian Art Museum on Capitol Hill, with its low wide steps leading to the massive entrance with its tall columns, or the old De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, which you don’t even remember, do you)

inside maybe 100 folding chairs set up in the immense hall with daylight coming through the vast windows (so it’s a new day, after all, try to remember that)

the usual crowd of white people ignoring me as I enter (by not ignoring me entirely, shooting me looks now and then)—someone’s at the podium, reading

do I know them? I don’t know if I know them, it’s a sparce crowd, I suppose I am there for a reading—I’ll carry out my obligations as they instruct me to

meanwhile, I’ll stroll out under the dim cool vague northern sky

tired of driving all the time or whatever I’ve been doing these days

I have my book of poems (that is a book of poems by a friend that I am carrying around, waiting for a chance to read), a skinny tan poetry book

semi-distant, down the steps and down the walk out by the lawn—perhaps a bit too far to get called back by whoever’s in charge of whatever it is

(whenever I’m out driving through like this, I’m thinking of people I could see—for example, I could have visited my brother—not too far from here—that is, when he was alive)

in the daytime however, the concrete walkways, well-clipped broad swaths of lawn, neatly trimmed hedges don’t have that transcendent immanence

as if you might pass through them into the universe

instead by day the universe is all palpable surface, tangible and concrete, immediate

(even if the Pacific is out there, churning, oxygenated and blue, boiling with living kelp forest off Point Lobos, off Garrapata Beach)

“Hey,” a slim young guy I know as a poet catches my eye

maybe he’ll tell me a specific word

instead we talk about the poetry book I have in my hand, I hand it to him, tell him I like it (as it’s by a friend of mine)—”though I haven’t really sat down to read it yet”—he nods noncommittally, cool like these hipster urban poets—

I get a subtle hapa vibe like David Lau or Brian Kim Stefans or somebody

I’m sure he and they’re hip, they can tell me what’s going on (or somebody will)

and I’ll be on my way (as usual)

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