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Tuesday’s Poet: Dan Bellm

Solitary Bird, Ballona (c) 2010 Richard Beban


Morning, Beijing


Desert sand from the north
And fine coal-grit blow into our eyes;


They leave a fine layer
Over the market stalls and walks.


Gold-black rain of prosperity:
We take it into our lungs.


At the edge of the little park,
The mynahs hung in tight cages from low branches


Refrain from song.

I take a turn in the path to find shelter,


Step over a threshold the way one wards off
An unquiet ghost. No birds at all


In the upper air.
Even the Emperor’s garden,


The houses and cars of the bankers and party bosses,
Are covered in this dust.


Dan Bellm has published three books of poetry, most recently Practice (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2008), winner of a California Book Award.


Dan wrote the Friends this “place biography,” about his local watershed:


I live in the Mission Creek watershed of San Francisco—not exactly a visible creek anymore, though it once flowed east into San Francisco Bay from the foothills in the heart of the city, through the back yards of my street in the Castro district, and on past the mission where Spanish-born Franciscans first measured out and fenced off the land and enslaved its inhabitants. I felt the presence of this wetland most powerfully when the earth shook beneath my house for 15 seconds one evening in October 1989; we are not on solid ground. I see it most clearly after the rainiest weeks of winter, and I see it in the slow cracks in the retaining wall that keeps my yard separate from the neighbor’s yard ten feet below it. Given a chance, our two plots of land would rather flow together.

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