I will be appropriating William Blake’s “London” to the hedonistic homeland of Haight/Ashbury in San Francisco. The place which characterizes and symbolizes the hippie movement, the Grateful Dead, and counter-culture, the intersection of Haight and Ashbury, leading to the revelry of Golden Gate Park, is a side of San Francisco which, once the center of alternative societies and subversive thoughts, has become a platitudinous center of consumption and marvel: ripe with tourists and overpriced retailers. While forsaking the grim tone of Blake, it is hoped that the freedom of rhymed stanzas mimics the intellectual and artistic liberation of the counter-culture movement. I also find the speaker’s perspective of the silent observer as incredibly attractive for the subject matter of this poem.

As I thunder through each slanted street,

I hear the metallic twang of hanging wire.

Fatigue-bearing men sling drugs on their feet,

blazing rolled papers as the gulls soar higher.


Squares thread by in with a hurried pace,

dragging poochie and straining his collar.

Clean cut men stride fast as if leading the race,

while the grizzly man pan handles for a dollar.


Youth trade stories about the last concert:

“You never got to see Jack White!?”

Burgeoning intellectuals mention Flaubert,

while munching expensive food bite by bite.


Sweating hippies beat the drum of dance,

basking in the blaze of the sun glazed hill.

The ego had died, he entered the trance,

all feels well while there’s time to kill.


—Nathaniel Schwass


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