richard brautigan - trout fishing in america

Remembering Richard Brautigan

There was this movie theater on Geary Street in San Francisco, now long gone. I can’t even remember what movie it was that brought me there that night with a woman who could have been a second or third date, but I do remember that we were inside the theater lobby waiting for the audience of the last show to depart.

As we stood there I happened to look across the room and saw a familiar face. I couldn’t place it right away. I kept looking until I said to myself, “Wait a minute! I know that guy, because he looks exactly as he does on the cover his novel, ‘Trout Fishing in America.’ That’s Richard Brautigan!”

So I said to my date, “You see that guy over there? That’s the writer Richard Brautigan. Have you ever read his work?”

She responded that she hadn’t. I went on to say something like, “He’s a fine writer, and very funny at times. I recently finished one of his novels!”

Not long after that, I came across his obituary: committed suicide at his place in Bolinas, which is about an hour drive from my house.

From then on, whenever I read something by Brautigan, I pictured him standing there in the lobby of that movie theater. Looking exactly as he did on the cover of that book. . .
 
 

© 2017 by Jeff Zable

at least 10 minutes away

At Least 10 Minutes Away

Coming home on the N Judah around 3 p.m.
a homeless man gets on at one of the stops
holding a blanket, a pillow, and all of his
worldly possessions in a cotton sack.

As soon as he sits down in the front,
everyone gets up and moves to the back.

Now the only one sitting within a few feet of him,
I take in the strongest smell of urine and excrement
that my nostrils can remember.

And just as I’m about to get up myself,
the guy turns to me and says, “Good to see you!
and smiles a toothless smile that makes me feel
too guilty to move,

So I smile back holding in most of my breath,
hoping I don’t faint before the streetcar
arrives at my spot. . .
at least 10 minutes away.
 
 

© 2017 by Jeff Zable

The Savior

On Powell Street a few blocks up from Market,
a rail thin, black transsexual in hot pants and a bra
is yelling at people, “25 cents. That’s all I need
to get something to eat!

When I put a dollar in her hand, she says in a high-pitched voice,
Oh my God, darling! You saved my life!

And after I walk a few steps past her, I turn and see her
moving through the crowd, probably to the Burger King
or McDonalds where she’ll savor her food
as if it was a gourmet meal,

and maybe say a prayer for me. . .

the one who saved her life.
 
 

© 2017 by Jeff Zable

Selective Taste

I’m eating a sandwich in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s
when a homeless guy appears on my wife’s side of the car.
When she rolls down the window I say to him,
What can I do for you?
Looking at my sandwich he says, “I’m very hungry. Can you help me?
Putting my sandwich down, I take out my wallet, hand him two ones
and say, “This should get you something at Trader Joe’s—good luck!
I continue eating my sandwich when all of a sudden it hits me.
What the hell is wrong with me!” I say to my wife.
Why didn’t I give him the other half of my sandwich!
My wife responds, “You could still catch him if you wanted to!
With that I get out of my car and see him standing in front Joe’s
begging for money.
Here!” I say, and hand him the other half.
He looks at me and asks, “Is it a good sandwich?
Is it good!” I say to him, “It’s chicken with pesto.
It’s the best you’ll ever eat!

When I get in my car my wife asks if he appreciated getting the sandwich.
To which I answer, “I don’t know. I’d have to ask him.
I get the sense that he has very selective taste. . .

 
 

-copyr. 2017 by Jeff Zable

[This piece originally appeared in Tower Journal, 2016]

Arts Council Meeting in California

The California Arts Council Butt-Kissing Section

Our minds just don’t open. On this you can count!
The California Arts Council Butt-Kissing Section
invites you to its annual Back Patting Party.

Butt-kissing cronies gain admittance for a pittance.
Any riff-raff wanting in has to cough up bundles.

Pressing our priorities, we practice cliquishness,
vindicating well-dressed clean cut weenies.

We display sanctimonious inauthentic ways
propping up liars with glad handing sneers…
this world’s gauchest brownnosing robot bohemians
make for the drippiest party in years!

  

© 2017 by Trajan Black