Stanyon Street

by Rod McKuen


You lie bent up in embryo sleep
below the painting of the blue fisherman
without a pillow.
The checkered cover kicked and tangled on the
the old house creaking now
a car going by
the wind
a fire engine up the hill.

I've disentangled myself from you
moved silently,
groping in the dark for cigarettes,
and now three cigarettes later
still elated
still afraid
I sit across the room watching you -
the light from the street lamp coming through the
hysterical patterns flash on the wall sometimes
when a car goes by
otherwise there is no change.
Not in the way you lie curled up.
Not in the sounds that never come from you.
Not in the discontent I feel.

You've filled completely
this first November day
with Sausalito and sign language
canoe and coffee
ice cream and your wide eyes.
And now unable to sleep
because the day is finally going home
because your sleep has locked me out
I watch you and wonder at you.

I know your face by touch when it's dark
I know the profile of your sleeping face
the sound of you sleeping.

Sometimes I think you were all sound
kicking free of covers
and adjusting shutters
moving about in the bathroom
taking twenty minutes of our precious time.

I know the hills
and gullys of your body
the curves
the turns.

I have total recall of you
and Stanyan Street
because I know it will be important later.

It's quiet now.
Only the clock,
moving toward rejection tomorrow
breaks the stillness.


I have come as far away
as means and mind will take me
trying to forget you.
I have traveled, toured
turned a hundred times in the road
hoping to see you rushing after me.

At night,
though half a world away,
I still hear you sigh in several sizes.
The breathing softer when you're satisfied.
The plip-plop body machinery back to normal.
remembering how warm you are
and how defenseless in your sleep
never fails to make me cry.
I cannot bear the thought of you
in someone else's arms
yet imagining you alone is sad.

And in the day
my mind still rides the bridge
from Sausalito home.
I do not think
me and San Francisco
will be friends again
we share too many troubles.
Stanyan Street and other sorrows.


We try so hard to make each other frown
I sometimes wonder
if we haven't been together much too long.
The words that work the wonders are so few
that they seem foolish anymore.

Is this a kind of loving too,
a chocolate bar that tastes good at the time
but kills the dinner later on ?
Could be our appetite will go
till even memory's not a feast.

But there are times
when you can smile in such a way
that I'd forget a ten year war
and lie down in your shadows' shadow
and live on sounds your stomach makes.
In these brief times
I could die against your side
and never make a warning sound
content to suffocate
within the circle of your back.


Three years
( or maybe four )
have moved beneath the San Francisco wreckers
and their yard-long hammers.
Their caterpillar treads that transform brick
to dust-red powder.
Those giant cranes
that slice a roof down
with a single swing.

Some have never known the wreckers' rattle.
Those houses on Pacific that march toward
restored by dilettantes from Jackson Square
painted up like aging actresses
with eye-shadow windows and rouge-red doors.
Some have had collections taken up
petitions passed from hand to hand.
Their widows walks scraped free of dirt
and green grass planted where the weeds once grew.

These houses almost shiny new
that crowd Nob Hill
and marched down Lombard in a row
were saved to show the glory of the past.

There was a house on Stanyan street
that took a single day to wreck
and that includes an hour spent
at tin-pail lunch on sandwiches and beer.

They carted off the timber and sold it by the pound.
The bricks at least, ten cents a piece,
now make a Marin garden wall.

But there is little salvage to be had
in bent and broken nails
and things that might have been
if I'd had wiser eyes
or been a fisherman
in blue.

Last updated March 31, 2023