Tom Albert

Sitting in the second floor of City Lights, honing the old
wanderers with their bullhorns and cereal bowls,
gray eyes and white t-shirts, my father and I joke
about how he never taught me to wield a hatchet –

never showed me the form, the correct rotation.
How to let the weight of it settle on the shoulder.
How to sharpen the blade. Gary Snyder taught his son
proper, not only how to throw, but how

to build, how to whittle, soften, and shape the wood.
This was sometime after his days watching for fire in the high country
and drinking. But before his cross country’d, pin-wheeled
explosions, naked beneath the bathrobe and thirsting

for something. San Francisco continues its tricks
then and now. You are excited we are here.
You are excited to show me your life as it was
many years ago, the hot days in the valleys,

the foreign syntax in the hills. Up and down
Route 1 through the Spanish towns of your youth:
San Clemente, San Luis Obispo. Santa Cruz.
Costa Mesa. Costa Mesa. Costa Mesa…

Desire is full of endless distances, as Hass
once said. Maybe he meant the Pacific. And if he didn’t
maybe he should have. Here, long grasses crackle
from lack of rain. Small boys and men

perch on sandy hillsides, pant legs rolled up half-calf,
the short hairs of their forearms standing at a ready
as if the whole coast, bundled and tied like tinder
could quietly burst into flame.

Like the tide, like the promise of water returning
you’ve taught me to yearn like this.
For Go West! For other lives lived.
And I do.