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.