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.