carl's open mic

Samaritan Sam holds the door as I enter
with a reverential bow that’s not exclusive
he’s what I call a panhandle dissenter
running an arthouse hustle unintrusive
any meal any time as the time only counts
for Dalia who close counts the change
and Henry big Henry who rows with his mop
like a seeker of sane up a river of strange
the lights never dim and the door never locks
at Carl’s Open Mic extravaganza
where the locals can loiter and hatch their revolts
out of mind on east end of the plaza
you can keep your Pinecrest Diner crowd they’ve nothing off menu to say
a woman just asked for my Cheetos/ but I’m Cheeto-free to her dismay
Henry spies and wakes a slumping dozer with a shoulder poke
“How long you gonna nurse that cup of coke?”
mumbles about a refill/ Henry laughs and walks away
“You been slurpin’ nut but melted ice since yesterday!”
reunion of step-children of step-children of the gold rush
concerned for city’s sake by Chronicle reports of bullpen woes
sifting for nuggets still the sport of preference
though they’ll settle for the heatlamped hashbrown glows
I used to grab a chair at the Moulin for over easies
before that a stool at the Lafayette ‘til they got crooked out of the lease
but downtown diners can’t compete with Carl’s
their scenes too savory and their grills stew swamps of grease
bastion of burgers thick backstories juicy
the taste of guess/the/city wrapped in paper waxed and white
where confessions mix with nonsense rant delusions
and the badge boys keep the quarantine and never drop in for a bite
the reggies rotate through as streetwise instincts guide migration
noon around the fountain like campfire
front page photo fodder social reform adjuration
vultures poised for lunchtime suits to rush retreat as breaks expire
but as the locals jostle with the pigeons for the scraps
the badge boys watch with heavy hassle stares
that chill the temperature and corral the crowd back into Carl’s
where Dalia leans on counter while she waits on a call from Old Navy
as a fourth-straight patron pays all dimes
for an order of biscuits and gravy
and she slides him card number five/ then hollers “seventeen”
and he figures he’s bought some time and asks the key to the latrine
Henry hands it over/ wags his finger with a warning
“don’t be thronin’ in there ‘til tomorrow morning!”
while the fuzz huddle at Philz amid the hipsters
and resolve to fix the eyesore long deferred
scheming over steaming cups of Wonderbar
how to slyly trim the fat and buffalo the herd
patrol car creepin quiet with its lights off
rolls slow toward the gaggle and they scramble in response
some hightail down the stairs into BART station
while others flee toward their safer haven fastfood sconce
inside they dive to alibi booth tables
or like a clown car bunker pile in toilet hideaways
muses of modern San Fran bandit fables
outlaw junkie ‘cisco castaways
the black and white shines spotlight into Carl’s
then veers on 7th street toward the ‘loin
the siren wails and V8 engine gnarls
as nocturnals slip back out to night rejoin
the open mic procedure flows informal
outbursts of interruption fly like roses of applause
the thematic thread can span from speech in tongues to paranormal
inspired rowdy libertines in Carl’s midnight mirage
and Dalia rolls her eyes and sighs and asks if my mind’s yet made
as Henry tries to sweep me like the mess I am off the filthy floor
and the mad poet repenters sing laments of renderments unpaid
as I stumble t’ward the exit where Sam Sammy opens wide the door

  • carl's open mic.mp34:21