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.