Three Poems by Al Young


Found in Willow Springs 14

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for Ann Hinkel

At Ann's place, even before you arrive
everything's OK, everything's peaceful.
The apartment air is impregnated with peace
particles. Picture her smiling as she looks
into the mirror to your soul: the eyes,
beam to beam, as she explains why thoughts
are  things and  how they work. Or picture
her giddiness when she walks into the living­
room, carrying a tray of tea and cookies,
saying, "This is called yerba mate; it's pretty
good." Then, lighting candles and putting on
Paul Horn's solo flute musings, she laughs.
Inside the Pyramid is where our meditation
begins this time around. Later she laughs again
and explains why she's limping, says,
"I took a fall, a double somersault night
before last on my way up to Glenn's house.
You know that wobbly wood railing that leads
up to his front door-well, I slipped
on the steps and-whew!-Glenn told me
I missed my calling, said I shoulda been
an acrobat!" So she's hobbling tonight.
Last month it was her knee that got knocked
out of joint. This is the woman who teaches
the Star Exercise and other yogic stances;
who's teaching us about the limitless powers
of mind and soul and who we really are
deep within this pyramid of body, mind and soul.
She leans back in her chair, pats her short
coiffed hair and listens to everything
each of us says, even when we all talk at once.
Often she feels our thoughts as they circle
the steam-heated room, before they pass
through the prisms of her lighted windows
to whirl around the world and hover there
either as sunshine or clouds in the endless
sky. O the roof of true, infinite love
is so vast it can only be housing eternity!


Once we walked from her place on Powell Street
to a Taoist vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown.
I held Ann's hand as we managed a worldly hill.
She huffed, puffing great frosty rings
of breath in the chilled San Francisco twilight,
but all the way her fingers pulsed with warmth.
For the very first time it occurred to me
how this beautiful woman was approaching
her 75th year on earth with wit and with humor
and knowledge; still years younger than us.
"I sometimes enjoy a good hamburger," she
said when I asked if she were strictly vegetarian.
And the light, it pours from her heart of hearts
and spills upon children like us who keep seeking
her out. It's the same light that plays
around her peaceful visage when she speaks
or sighs or sits to breathe in silence, or breathe
the glowing sound of warm bamboo in easy repose.
She's the very mother we've all always wanted.


The Slots


The sane you watches
the insane you finally
recover the money you
prayed to get back
to get even & get out
at last. The you who
knows everything registers
this & stands or hovers
helplessly by the you buying
into your own dark dumbness.
This is Pinocchio's town;
as Italian as a scallion
chopped & minced into moments
& minutes of slow-falling
confetti. "Viola!" shrieks
the French lady across the aisle
as her sheik of a boyfriend pulls
$250 in coins with a smile.
Then it happens to you:
one last bleary pull of the handle
& you're richer than you started
out, you've come back. Silver
comes chattering down like
metal tumbleweed; your needs
have indeed been filled full
to the brim. You turn to him,
the sane you, that is, & you say:
"You blockhead, you fool on wheels,
you've done it again!" & the  sane
you says, "Scoop up what you got,
go take a shower, relax & catch
the next plane home!" But
the stupid you, triumphant,
smug in its captivity, can't wait
to start feeding it back.


Whatever Becomes of the Living?

for Kenneth Rexroth in memoriam

By the sea it was, the Pacific,
your eyes glazed with dream
& the sonorous Indiana of your voice­-
part ponderous, part invention-you
blinked & looked hard at me
the first & second times we met
at Asilomar then at Santa Cruz,
each setting the perfect location
for a moving star like you, like
the Santa Barbara that saw you
slip away into the blue of another home.

What happens? Whatever becomes
of the living? Your voice still graces
unaccountable passages of my rites
en route to poethood. I have as much
right to look on you as teacher
as anyone raising themselves
in the razor winds of my catch-all,
stormy era. But there is no sound
sharp enough to cut through the water
& the thunder of you flashing
in your own shrewd role as soul publicist,
as worldly Hoosier booster of the spirit-feel.


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