Selected Poems II


Tisa Walden




                                                              5 Days in September, 2014

   PSALM 102:6
          I am like a pelican in the wilderness, like an owl among the ruins

    PSALM 102:7
          I lie awake and feel like a sparrow alone on the roof


September 21, 2014. 6 o'clock in the morning 

enormous red-tailed hawk in the trees of the park
where I venture every morning to the cathedral
still hoping to see dear Howard  I think/sitting 
in the pew with a bowed head praying

dark sky
sun not up
seagulls cry 

if I admit my fear do I also admit a lack of faith?

                                 .       .       .

Chinese man w/ white hair
begins a Tai Chi routine
silently as if under water
limbs in slow-motion

sound of raking
the groundskeeper
sound of a flute
rain smell
old Chinese emerge to walk the circular path
surrounding the park/black dog jogging after
ball thrown
I walk over to a park bench
see 3 russet potatoes in a plastic bag
sit down one falls to the ground w/ a thump
blue wheelbarrow upside down
on a mound of dirt/big noise garbage truck
lovely old Chinese guy in white sneakers
1, 2, 3 crumpled forms of homeless sleepers

lush bush with purple flowers

3 Chinese ladies in purple shirts

ancient wrinkled  street woman

cigarette dangling from her lips

velvet whispering dots of mist 

o my father gone 6 months now

                                     .       .       .

the poplars
6 in a circle
big redwood

green/black moss
growing on the tree bark
bottlecaps strewn about
empty apple juice jar
tiniest moth

Chinese man 
pre-Tai Chi

bedraggled pigeonfeather
all that is here simultaneously
pitchblack ravenfeather

man in a funny raincoat
walking a Pekinese on a leash
cigarette butts pepper the grass
unseen above/ jet engine

girl on a cellphone
   red  helicopter
Harbor patrol
American flag

breeze from the NE
soft against my cheek
man running
               quiet bell

red  plastic cup
in a newly

                  at the top
of the cathedral 

white poodle
       (tears well)

cathedral clockchimes 
                tree branches sway 
     smell of bread


raven caws then dives

at the hawk still perched

on the cathedral steeple

6 old Chinese women

laughing/speaking Chinese 

    walking home


                                        on the sidewalk

September 22, 2014. 6:03 AM

no stars

car engine starts

another morning

waft of sea breeze


on the far hill
spots of red
in the distance
vague treeshapes
shades of blue
blacken the sky
on the window sill
4 pennies 

looking down into the street
sweet breeze  from the ocean
beside me  Hart's piano draped
            in a white sheet


 sky bluing
        blue w/ light in it

red neon  triangle

2 old Volkswagens

golden streetlamp 
unnamable blues

tint the sky

black coffee
white cup
6 peaches on the countertop

blue flames leap from the gas jet

     Higgs Boson


bicycle zips by/door "bang!"
sea lions barking

3 trees 
              at the foot of 
                                       Angel Island

wets the drought
niece in Maine
the one I went to Yosemite with
back from Greenland rang the phone

the Island sits in the silver water
Nob Hill slopes sharply upward
Telegraph Hill behind me
Coit Tower at the top
I stand in the street
sky now greyish/white
tugboat in the Bay
making its way

strolling along Stockton to the park
darkish/scarlet Bougainvillea
white fire-hydrant w/ the figure 8
stenciled in black
           discarded Camel pack

                                    tangerine roses                                                 

red SHUANGXI cigarette pack*
                                     *I pick this up 
                                          put it in the pocket
                    of my  Barbour jacket

        gold Chinese letters

big    brown    leaf

climb the cathedral steps again
into the grotto to light a candle
past the resplendent purple Irises  
touch the finger of John the Baptist
cold toes of the statue of Christ

for a moment
somber silence
tattered man in the back
Chinese girl with the black coat
candles flickering below the stained-glass window
murmuring voices  from a back room somewhere
enter Washington Square Park again
time-capsule statue of  Ben Franklin
man in a blue sleeping bag shifting
pink tinge around the clouds
white terrier "Tess"
smell of wet ply-wood

. . .                        

I ask the Black guy in the fluorescent vest, "What's the name of this tree?"
"It's a Sycamore," he says, "I have to rake the leaves all the time."
He turns the sprinkler system on.  They spit across the grass and awaken
a man in a sleeping bag who jumps up startled.

bronze plaque embedded in the asphalt reads "Barbary Coast Trail"
yellow, green, red ladders leaning against the chain-link fence
wild parrot-flock flies overhead screaming

shopping cart
homeless man
striped blanket
blue crumpled map
downtown San Francisco

                                                   .       .       .

I sit for a moment on the tree stump
carrying a white  feather home/hungry
fellow with one crutch talking to himself
young woman/beautiful red hound says "hello"
I saunter home slowly 
sunkisses the brown earth of the Island 
I swing around the corner up Chestnut
see from the street my 2nd-story open window
climb the stairs as I have for 26 years now
red cigarette pack/feather
brought back excavated
from the plaid flannel
of my jacket pocket
adorn the kitchen


another autumn
arising pre-dawn
to watch the bluecurtain lift
wander down to the park
me and the old Chinese 
walking in circles
watching the hawkwheel
aloft in his azure field
                                         .       .       .

orange Karman Ghia rolls through the intersection
wind-up-toy engine like the one I flew through the
rural darkness in back to Susan's farm house
whose rooster crowed in the morning
all those many moons ago from
the University of Maryland

                                        .       .       .

my neighbor a landscaper  wears reddish dreadlocks

carries shovels/a green hose/canvas tarp to his pick-up

sky still dark 3 men enter the intersection

# 1 stops to look at the boxes on the sidewalk
pulls a book out

 # 2 has a black pony-tail

# 3 limping

palest yellow/pale pink paint
an attempt to externalize my
sense of the  Divine/Chinese
man digging  in the trashcan
computer clock says 6:02
leaning from the open window
vague Big Dipper/fan whirrs

                                   .       .       .

slight chill

white building

on the far hill

Noh ghost

I sit here in the window dreaming
now the great blue dawn beginning
suddenly a huge cruise ship appears
moving slowly through the water

down to the dark park again
old Chinese man with a radio
tinny old Chinese music playing
greets me in broken English

I enter the quiet/silent cathedral
dip a finger in the font of holy water
candle flames flicker on the statue
"25th Sunday in Ordinary Time"
fear crawling down my spine like a spider

                                              .       .       .

exit the church
reenter the park
monumental conifer/ornate steeple 
weathered solid oak table/big red truck:
sign reads "Golden State Lumber"


4:40 AM

water boiling
pen out of ink
stained sink
looking out the window for the promised rain
all the pain of the peoples of Earth
still it's a beautiful world

computer light
John's photograph of Ruby
Martin's old dog now dead
hangs on the wall in the kitchen
big black Harley motor starts
"thwap", "thwap" newspapers
landing on the sidewalk

burnt the coffee
(Richeson Oil Mediums
The Shiva Series
Venice Turpentine
 pyramid-shaped glass bottle
3 small tubes of Sennelier oil
blue, cobalt-violet, unbleached titanium
   .       .       .

dawns on me to walk to the dock
down Stockton to Fisherman's Wharf
5:15 yet dark/ISIS on television
turn the machines off
return to the window
symphony in the street

back to the kitchen

3 bananas

no end in sight

time stops

yellow cab 

flys by

                                                  .       .      .


Jack called drunk from Colorado

Dominic's crushed/hushed voice

ex-wife diagnosed with cancer

rain running in rivulets

6:22/Sugimoto photo

no umbrella
old hooded sweatshirt 
threads unravelling 
bright gold letters
"Lucky Brand Dungarees"
"American Made"
O San Francisco
2 sisters so far from me 
½ sister in New York City 


I stand an aging woman  
                          in the wet street
                                  eyes resting on the Bay
                        lighthouse searchlight on the Island
                     sweeping round and round as the sun rises

brown soaked leaves 

   clog the gutter

huge fat slug

     doesn't move

smashed front

  of the Honda
grey hydraulic chair

abandoned on the sidewalk
quiet cathedral cavern
outside a woman shouts
fragrant white  flowers
miniature marble Pieta
rich church/impoverished  people  
city of St. Francis of Assisi/black-iron fence
erected to keep  the drunks off the precious steps
here comes Momo-the-painter with his messianic hairdo


words engraved across the cathedral entrance
spikes jut out of the head of Christ to keep the birds off
dark green park benches wet with morning dew
ear-splitting leaf-blower blowing leaves
Black man curled up in a storefront doorway
wall of purple/blue morning glories 

everywhere I wander
homeless people sleeping 
this one has an orange hat
recumbent on soggy cardboard
yesterday an old woman with dementia
white hair in wisps flying out sideways like wings
rushed up to me as I sat on a bench in Washington Square Park
"What are you doing!" she exclaimed with a big grin
I'd been peering at the minutia on the ground
blue rubber- band
yellow balloon
fat sparrows


Copyright ©2014 by Tisa Walden

J-Gossage-in-ItalyJohn Gossage has over 30 photography books published, including books by Aperture and Steidl. He has shown world wide including shows at the National Gallery of Art, The Rochester Center, and recently at The Art Institute of Chicago and Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.