The Haight Street Manifesto

By thumb or bus or scraggly old van

they arrive in droves, escapees from

the Midwest, where no one really wants

to live, school dropouts and teen runaways

on the road, who never read Kerouac,

shadowy spirits of “The Age of Aquarius”

choosing silence, exile and rebellion.

They’re committed to negation, anger

and cunning, loping around town in

backpacks and mildewed leather jackets

studded with steel, tattooed and pierced

through lips, nose and ears.

They don’t mind getting wet

sleeping under stars in the Golden Gate Park.

When Port-O-Sans are locked, they crap

in the bushes, avoiding old panhandlers

who talk to themselves in Korsakoff confusion.

Like Bartleby clones they live by saying:

“I prefer not to.”

Unlike Ben Franklin they never set aside

time to ponder his favorite question:

“What good have I done this day?”

Banished from home they won’t listen to parents

who are out of the loop, whose only advice is:

“Join the army, it will make you a man!”

They’d like old farts to get out of their way

instead of taking up space by living too long,

leaving them broke in a world that stinks

with no air, water or food that’s good anymore.

They’d corral those hobbling around in Boca

and Phoenix, put them to sleep like we do

with our pets.

With eyelids half closed they listlessly wander,

somnambulists surviving on burritos and cheap

Chinese while hungering for bedazzlement.

They have no “to do” lists, mindlessly free

to have shallow conversations hollow

of meaning; they’re funky dead souls in voluntary

exile hoping that anarchy, chemistry and musical

tribalism will prove to be their elixir of transcendence.

Milton P. Ehrlich 199 Christie St. Leonia, N.J. 07605