The Guide Dream, San Francisco by Mark J. Mitchell

The Guide Dream, San Francisco

El poeta como guía turístico dirá ustedes.
                                             —Nicanor Parra

In the tour guide dream you spiral down
to the left while the sky bleeds gray.
Cold tourists, damp as seals, bark questions
in a language that’s never been spoken
on this planet, beneath this sky.
In this dream they look, they never see.
They swim across tarmac, run over seas.
Visitors appear soft as eiderdown,
puffy, cold. Explain that flattened sky,
they ask. Silent, you brush away not yet gray
hair and laugh as if they haven’t spoken.
They believe it all. There’s nothing to question.
But they point, you look. You question
history. They ask, again, if they’ll get to see
that shrine, left destroyed when words weren’t spoken
at the right time. The statue fell down
a set of broken stairs, shattered into gray
dust on the sidewalk, matching that sky.
You stretch your fingers, draw on the sky
but they still don’t understand that questions
don’t mean the same things here. There’s a gray-
eyed girl in the back you’ve never seen
but you know. She refuses to sit down
when you bark an order. Unspoken
signals are shared like bicycle spokes. In
time that’s all that remains under this sky—
a wheel, a door, a red bus that’s fallen down
a hill too steep to climb. There’s no question—
the attempt should not have been made. They’ll see
that if the sky ever clears. It stays gray
as the girl’s eyes, but she’s gone. Gray
blankets are limp on the seats, and spoken
letters drop like pennies. There’s nothing to see
but they keep coming, keep dropping from the sky
keep landing, soft and damp as question
marks beside the name you didn’t write down.
You scan the flat sky. It’s still as gray
as glass. Questions linger. No one has spoken
since you turned down that hill towards the sea.

About the Poet
Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthology Good Poems, American Places. He is author of the chapbook Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press, 2010) and the novel Knight Prisoner (Vagabondage Press, 2014).  He has another novel, A Book of Lost Songs, forthcoming from Wild Child Publishing and a book, This Twilight World, forthcoming from Popcorn Press. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the filmmaker Joan Juster.