Poem of the Day

San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck is curating a Poem of the Day with San Francisco Public Library for every day during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check back daily for a new poetic offering from assorted local poets or view the archive of previous day's poems.


The City


I. From the Tenderloin to Pacifica

her long legs catch his attention

she opens the door of his 1980s black Thunderbird
slides onto crusty vinyl seats
breathes in stale cigarette smoke
in silence he hands her
a beer, a vial, a cocaine spoon

she tells herself she’s used to such trips
some never touch her
just sit, drink tea, watch TV.
others blubber shamelessly
after spilling semen on sheets
or none at all.
at least one ripped her vagina
while playing doctor.
she almost hemorrhaged to death
didn’t walk for weeks
lost her spot on the corner

when they arrive
20 minutes from downtown San Francisco
40 from Oakland Airport
she sees the neon sign, a cruel beacon of comfort
               Friendly Staff
               Playboy Channel
               Ocean view
               Morning Coffee & Pastry

coffee, a danish, and the sea
What a nice morning, she thinks

then hears “Hey Bitch!”
behind yellowed teeth, a greasy goatee
flaked with crumbs, dusted
in white powder

and through her pantyhose
feels the clasp
of a callused and clammy hand


II. The Corner of Jones & Eddy

the man with shoes worn like slippers
a plaid thriftstore coat
pants that end above his ankles
paces up and down the block
up and down the block

to and from the corner of Jones & Eddy
where dealers trade tiny packages
for tightly rolled bills
in front of the store
that sells mainly cigarettes
             Mad Dog 20/20
             candy, glazed doughnuts
             pints of Smirnoff & Jim Beam
across the street
transvestites compete
for their spots on the corner
next to smaller miniskirts
above thinner thighs

a Vietnamese man
clasps his son’s tiny hand
pushes a portable shopping cart
full of oranges, milk,
heaping leaves of lettuce;
bumps into a whore’s broad shoulder
who smiles, strokes his thin arm
with her big-boned fingers

tire wheels screech
everyone turns to see
a black Thunderbird
open its doors, spit her out

on her torn white shirt
above her breast
a splash of red

the corner women
prop her against a cold building
then, like chess pieces,
move back to their places

the man with his boy
scurries up dirty cement steps
grateful the wrought-iron gate
will soon clang like a bear trap
behind them

packages and bills
exchange hands again
the man with shoes like slippers
paces up and down