After a whole bunch of years living in San Francisco, at last, it was time to leave. But how to leave? How to say goodbye to a home that through my twenties had always been more than crowded streets and tall buildings, had always been the human scene plus the surrounding waters, the fog and wind, the redwoods, the songbirds and seals?

I developed a project, a fare-thee-well tour, and thanks to support from an outfit called the Awesome Foundation (check ’em out, they’re awesome indeed) was able to devote myself to it entirely. Each day that December, rain or shine, I walked a random route northward from my apartment, exited the metropolis via the Golden Gate Bridge, and trudged into the chaparral hills of the Marin Headlands. There, I sat on a cliff overlooking the ocean for a couple hours, scribbling poems and watching the sun sink, before finally tightening my shoelaces and returning to the city beneath night’s first stars.  

These were huge outings, at least 20 miles a day, sometimes closer to 30—driven yet aimless. Perhaps I was trying to grind myself down so I could better commune with the Bay Area, so I could better appreciate the ways that “nature” and “civilization” interpenetrate one another. Perhaps this was a spiritual exercise, an exercise in humility and perspective. Perhaps it was a kind of ecopoetic meditation. 

Honestly, I don’t know. All I can say for certain is that my legs hurt and my heart ached and the cars honked their horns and the pelicans glided past without beating their wings. The following poems are a selection from a book-length poetry manuscript that emerged from the project, Golden Gate: Poems of Walking and Sitting

           —Leath Tonino

 

The Possibility

i don’t expect
any of us
to know
what it’s like
to be free
of worry

all i ask
is that when
a tree or stone
or cloud
mentions the possibility

we stop
what we’re doing

turn our heads
listen

 

Mistake

it is delightful
that grebes sitting on the waves
can be mistaken
and often are
for the light
glinting
on those waves

i hope
there exists some creature
some being
watching me
right now

mistaking me
for light

 

As It Was Given

was not bored or entertained
inspired or depressed

was just plain sitting

like a rock
like lichen 

felt a little warm
the sun
a little chilled
the wind

otherwise
nothing much of anything

like a shadow on the beach
like silver on a wave

this
i thought
rising to walk home
is what i will carry to the city

shadow and silver
beach and wave

this type of sitting

filled my pockets
strapped my backpack tight
carried it twenty miles
five hours

faced the crowds
the faces
the people
the place inside
the bigger place

gave it out as it was given
for free

gave it out plainly
as it was given

Temple
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