empty wooden benches on a long pier in San Francisco

When Oysters Promised Pearls

The foil-hot egg and smoked ham on brioche
hits my mouth with a skin graft punch,
rinsed loose with a muddy dark roast.

Ferry diesel swirl dulls the San Francisco shimmer,
a sweet scent that pairs surprisingly well with my breakfast.

I buy her a sandwich too,
but she tells me to fuck off with a gravel throat,
stabs me with startled eyes,
spits fear at me with sun-scorched lips.

So I hold back at the book cart, eating both, watching
her deftly vacate her wood slat cot,
her bay view bench facing the boat commute.

She stuffs her navy wool blanket in her rusted metal dolly,
slides her cardboard sheets behind the oyster house recycle,
folds the bright orange scarf that warms her midnight breath.

She powers through Jack LaLanne’s morning calisthenics,
changes her socks twice because the first set bled,
sings a quiet tune that hits notes pure.

Her cart’s wheels are flat,
the weight of her life hard to push,
though she seems used to it.

I watch her walk the wharf, favoring her right leg twist.
Joggers angle wide. Her gloveless leather hands gesticulate.

The wound that her tongue left on my morning lingers,
her eyes stuck staring in my head. Wide and clear whites
on a landfill barge of smell and hate.

Those eyes though, they belong to everyone.
When I close mine to see them again, they

Each blink pushing her a decade back,
her salt-cracked cheeks slowly smoothing.
A time machine blur to that child
buried deep in the cold wet fog.

Back when oysters promised pearls
and a new day’s breakfast
included raw hope for the day ahead.