A wild bear wearing a coat of fire

That spins universes


Turned the violin he dwarfed into a giant,

Cupped against chin and shoulder,

Soloist before a packed house at the Sunset Center,

Set free notes thin and luscious and dangerous

As a spider’s spun silk;


Concerto rising full and robust,

The symphony crested into a tidal wave;

Every soul surely longed

To be drowned


By the divinity of music beyond possibility,

The very fact it was happening, said,

“God is real.”


There I sat in the last row

At the top of the balcony,

In a seat comped by a new friend in the orchestra

(I had met a month ago at Counterpoint Coffee,

When overheard talking marvels about the bear)


And my new friend’s new friend Molly

In another comped seat beside me;

When we met the score’s composer, greeting

Each and all who entered the nosebleed section,

Molly had said, “Now, that’s the way to do it.”


But perhaps it was the eight-year-old girl

Sitting next to her mom

One row to the front,

Who delivered the timelessness

Of her youth as well as mine,


Those syncopated glances

Back at me over and again

With a smile of another refugee

In a small boat cramped with people

On the ocean,


Not a look of sadness, or of being lost or adrift,

Rather feeling in this house something

Emerges once to last forever,

Something like van Gogh’s starry night.


After the performance, I walked

In the dark of night with a shadow

Cast by light from windowed storefronts

Closed at 5 in sleepy Carmel,


Heading toward the tucked-away courtyard for Barmel,

What for velvet ropes and a bouncer,

Mustering all it could of “wait in line unless you’re ‘special,’”

Hollywood glitz and liquid hips,


The only rave zone rubber-stamped

In this too-quaint-for-its-own-good tourist town,

Not that raves are my thing, or my symphony pals’,

If my legs did do a little Elvis

To the techno beat


To make for the side room

Reserved to symphony players and friends,

Eight of us precariously separated

From the mashup of revelers

By the pane glass;


The wild bear met my eyes

With a look of exhaustion

from being It,


Not one iota to extinguish the flame

Which brought us this far,

And he said, “What if we played a string quartet in here,

To make something beautiful?”


Without taking to musical instruments,

Our little band of wayfarers to the muses

Made a fiercely sweet sound:


A violinist from San Francisco

Lives on a boat,

Saving money gig by gig

To make seaworthy repairs

For sailing his way to performances;


Another violinist from San Francisco

Lives in a bohemian group house

Without one other musician,

Rendering practice an impossible nuisance,

And dreams of moving south to Monterey

to let his notes fill the air;


Molly fuses art with justice

To swivel the heads of swells

Who prefer sex trafficking

Kept under the radar

For benefit of generals,

And industry titans and wannabes

And sold-out artists

Who call their paradise

Bohemian Grove.


When the virtuoso, the wild bear,

Retires to his den for sleep,

With angels and demons

Trusted with once more carrying him

The entire way in and out of bed,

Through the matinee performance tomorrow,

I watch him leave the room and walk away

Through the glass, clearly.


I’m left gazing on the lostness

I lived for so long,

A player in the cacophony

Blasted through the taverns of the world,

Tequila clawing throats, or the fat tongue

Of bourbon, or polite sparkling water with a lime,

Visions distorted


By the yearning for genitalia to ease our pain,

And condemn myself,

But to no longer spank outsiders with shame,

For I am also one of them,

If lucky enough to know

The tavern’s games are necessary,

Even sacred.


All for a time, or a lifetime,

Find ourselves out there oblivious,

Or using snatched lamps filled with strain

Over what’s going on inside the side room,

We catch ourselves looking

Through the glass, darkly.

Published in – Open Ceilings.