Take a break from no matter you are doing and immerse your self in San Francisco historical past and the travels of James J. Siegel in The God of San Francisco, a revelatory and uplifting title for a metropolis that has recognized many gods. Here is the God of us —LGBTQ individuals— whether or not longtime San Franciscans nonetheless centered within the axis of homosexual tradition, or these new who’ve lately come to the nation’s capital of continuous reinvention. In both case, these poems sense that there’s something in regards to the metropolis now gone, eternally misplaced, however right here within the poems, moments enduring.
Siegel dives to a central location, an unofficial landmark, websites we nonetheless meet for sidewalk espresso, or as soon as met to slither by and to cackle on the night time, from Daddy’s to Moby Dick and the forty-five-year-old Badlands, which completely closed its doorways this previous summer time. In “December 1,” we’re referred to as to recollect, or to first be taught, considered one of numerous moments of elegy with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence:
The Sisters are lighting candles
on the nook of 18th and Castro.
these will not be the nuns who haunted
the hallways of my Catholic adolescence.
These nuns have names like
Sister Anni Coque L’doo
and Sister Porn Once more.
The gathering of eighty poems was simply launched by unbiased writer Sibling Rivalry Press (SRP), which is run by a homosexual male couple from the unlikely location of Little Rock, Arkansas. SRP’s previous, current, and future collected books are acquired by the Library of Congress and saved within the Uncommon E-book and Particular Collections Division there, Siegel’s ebook now amongst them.
In “Homosexual Most cancers,” Siegel takes the reader to the darker previous, witnessed by reminiscences of his personal youth:
When males died of homosexual most cancers
I used to be solely 5—preoccupied
combing the manes of purple ponies
bending Barbie’s legs to suit
comfortable in her pink convertible.
The nightly information was a montage
of pale pores and skin and pitted cheeks—
skinny, skinny our bodies and fevered eyes.
Then again to common programming—
sequined Stable Gold Dancers
twirling to the week’s high ten.
He advised the Bay Space Reporter: “One of many guidelines I’ve realized as a poet is to by no means impose my agenda on a poem. I can all the time be impressed to put in writing one thing, however on the finish of the day the poems are going to resolve what they’re about and what message they’ve for the reader.”
Queer grief on the onset of AIDS to the dramatic transformation of San Francisco thus far; Siegel, who arrived in San Francisco in 2004, talked in regards to the creation of his artwork and the audiences who encourage him to find what for many people are actual reminiscences.
His topics —inanimate objects, a body onto websites found, home windows by which we move in our every day rush to get by life: in “Elegy for the Castro Funeral House” —the previous Sullivan’s Funeral House which closed final yr after greater than ninety years in enterprise, fell so as to change into one other San Francisco house complicated. The numerous males within the palms of the epidemic, all useless. Learn:
100 years and you might be gone.
Demise isn’t the enterprise it as soon as was.
Monument to loss—your crumbling
façade a reminder of days we might moderately neglect.
However forgetting is simply extra dying.
When new bones rise out of your basis
and jackhammers flip concrete to mud
will anybody hear for benedictions
haunting the dusty air
Will anybody pry free a century of eulogies
trapped within the earth?And can they pour forth
from the pavement cracks like steam—
a pale ghost—ascending the sky?
Our Historical past
“I generally consider myself as extra of an interpreter,” stated Siegel. “The poems come to me and it’s my job to do the perfect I can to translate.”
He wonders if these poems will communicate to the reader. However how can they not? Siegel spends his time right here writing, remembering, location, the import of setting, how environments —each metropolis to rural— have an effect on us.
“As for one thing common in my work, I discover that a lot focuses on place, bodily areas. And the explanation, I’ve realized, is that I am all the time making an attempt to navigate my environment. I felt a bit misplaced within the Midwest. So I wrote about it.”
the radio band cracks.
Two frequencies battle within the airwaves.
The day’s high hits fade to static
because the Gospel scratches and pops
We’re getting into the Kingdom of the Lord
Blood orange solar.
Moon like a topped dragon
sliding into view.
Farmhouses and chapels,
a clapboard barn proclaiming
And later within the assortment, he casts his eyes on the faith of his youth and a differently-envisioned savior in “Jesus Descends on Golden Gate Park”:
This can be a Catholic college expulsion, a Vatican heresy,
and but we have now simply begun
In comes Christ on curler skates.
A cheerleading Christ, shaking pom poms, doing the splits.
Rockstar Jesus with a crucifix guitar. Out of the blue,
Clouds of smoke rise and the Christ of Haight-Ashbury seems—
bare-footed, dreadlocked, water effervescent in a glass bong.
He focuses on the essence of that faith reworked on the heightened consciousness that we’re all, everybody of us, invited to the Kingdom. It’s reborn faith, now, in San Francisco the place liberal historical past is properly established and uplifted within the creation of our queer selves, id broadcast, not less than, within the peninsular metropolis the place endurance, invention, recreation provided misplaced souls a spot to name house.
But, in “They Nonetheless Say Faggot in San Francisco,”
It’s only a phrase
and nonetheless I flinch as if I bit my tongue.
I cringe as a result of that is San Francisco,
metropolis in a catsuit purring on the moon,
Leather-based pups pawing their masters at Folsom.
This isn’t Wyoming, rural Ohio.
This isn’t my Catholic college or a Bible Belt nation membership.
That is the place rainbow flags umbrella the sky
like a queer power area, kaleidoscope bubble of
safety. And nonetheless
Upon first studying the poems, it appeared Siegel carried out an admirable quantity of formal analysis to realize his information of town so as to construct these stanzas. In fact, he realized most of what he is written by listening and “… simply dwelling in San Francisco for 16 years… Our queer historical past is throughout us. It is nonetheless standing… ready to inform its tales in case you are protecting your eyes open and your ear to the bottom.”
The ebook’s title shares the title of the charming poem, “The God of San Francisco,” the place Siegel shares considered one of his many days sitting at Twin Peaks Tavern on the nook of Castro and Market Streets, developing his vault of reminiscence which have change into these poems:
He sits alone,
his palms turned to vein and bone.
However purchase him a martini—
vodka with two olives—
and he’ll inform you something
you’ll want to know,
from the Gold Rush to North Seashore
the place the sailors wore clothes
over their anchor tattoos,
to José Sarria and the Black Cat,
the Nightingale of Montgomery Avenue
José Sarria, also referred to as drag queen The Widow Norton and the primary overtly homosexual candidate to run for public workplace, died in 2013. “Twin Peaks holds its personal area in queer historical past,” Siegel stated. “In actual fact, there could be no ‘God of San Francisco’ with out Twin Peaks Tavern. Once I go to Twin Peaks, I am going with an incredible quantity of respect, as a result of these women and men are nonetheless there.”
Interspersed all through the gathering are poems of cross-country journey, passing by Wyoming recalling Matthew Shepherd; journeys abroad, swimming by the celebs. There’s a lot to digest right here. The nice profit to studying poetry is the absorption of distinct imagery, buying sentiments for the themes into consideration, and spawning the felt-sense of the poet’s care.
The work’s ultimate poem titled “No Obits,” was the Bay Space Reporter’s above-the-fold cowl headline of the now internationally-famous subject of August 13, 1998. Throughout that week, the B.A.R. obtained no obituaries resulting from HIV/AIDS-related diseases, the primary time for the reason that AIDS epidemic started within the early Eighties. The headline was written by beloved previous editor Mike Salinas, who died in 2003. Bone chilling to learn the poem’s title alone:
Even at this time’s information is feasible. The entrance web page fluttering
on a park bench—No Obits—as if loss of life has give up his job,
taken a much-deserved relaxation.
For years the names poured in. A deluge.
The editor’s inbox flooded with crisp white envelopes,
Handwritten return addresses staring again like an epitaph. Piles
of human historical past type-spaced on an historic typewriter. A life
folded neatly—a shroud—holding a photograph, the face of somebody now gone,
journeying off to the darkish thriller we worry.
Siegel’s assortment is an outstanding new addition to the wealthy custom of LGBTQ historical past and its significance to our queer existence, its continuation within the spirit of private freedom. Nonetheless one chooses to spend further time, poems anchor one for a second, a way of centering the self inside one other zone, easing the burden of the now and transporting the self to the historical past that won’t be forgotten.
Poems shift the dynamics in a room, lending themselves to interpretation and personalisation. So long as time is taken to care again on the pages, and the individuals, and locations of the good Metropolis of San Francisco, reminiscence will serve us. The God of San Francisco is a crisp reminder that we, in any case, are alive.
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