ARTICHOKES, 1972 BY ALISON JENNINGS
Absent for a while from Paradise,
you've been in cultural isolation
within dope-deprived Japan.
Next door, in glorious sunshine,
on a Berkeley brown-shingled
rooftop, a giddy summer party
seduces stunted senses
with a buttery aroma of steamed
baby artichokes, a joyous freak fest
glorifying nearby California bounty.
But you heaven't realized that the sensory
assault you've missed — smells and tastes,
sounds and images — is a fickle messenger
of truth, can cloud the mind as well as clear it.
Chokes 'n' dope are offered with laughter:
Come on over! Beware: the camaraderie's
a chimera of the mellow life you'd left here,
what you'd imagined in Japan, Quicksilver
Messenger service LP on repeat, a spirit
of disorderly Dionysus, goat footed romping
in scented meadows of warmth and touch —
a stubborn fantasy, clinging to depleted
dreams of peace and love, dying fast
from mortal wounds of Manson, Altamont,
Nixon, Vietnam, too many assassinations.
And living right upstairs is a scary,
whacked out junkie, rivetingly skinny,
ebony skin and Afro crown, an anti-Hendrix,
exuding hatred and paranoia, kicking
his mangy greyhound dog down the steps.
Good advice, at last, for grounding in reality
from your flighty neighbor's dad, a minister
to street kids, who's renounced his former
fief of church and wife and house and car:
We don't have to own something to enjoy it,
he explains, and what we enjoy may not last,
but in its fleeting, perfect moment, it is real.