Graduate School

My mother was mortified when she heard:

No curtains? How do you live without curtains?

All thanks to my sister who insisted on visiting:

a plot to see what San Francisco had done to me

after half a semester. Just how many rooms

does this apartment have anyway?  “Flat,” I said.

“We say flat here. Like in Europe.” LA DI DA,

my mother sang. But no TV, Mister Fancypants?

Five roommates and not one TV—uchh. Had I

given up God, denounced the religion of things,

uprooting myself from her sane Long Island?

I just wanted to study poetry, in “a room, with

some lace and paper flowers.” Like Stevie Nicks.

I just wanted to be a Gypsy. Hadn’t she began here?

Opening for Janis? And Jimi? Writing her songs.

If Stevie had curtains, she likely tore them down.

To wear as a shawl. When my mother mailed some,

I said, “But I’d rather watch the city.” To imagine

the orange bridge stretching behind the rows

of grubby Victorians, to listen to the pigeons

on my roof cooing to orgasm each morning.

I stopped there, sensing my mother’s threshold.

No TV—did ya ever? Likely addressing my sister,

the rat. I assumed she hadn’t mentioned my neighbor,

his slow-mo strip tease in the frame of his window

every dusk—just for me. My sister blew him

a kiss when I refused to let her snap a photo.

“Even this city has limits,” I explained. My mother

threatened a TV for my birthday. “But I need to read.”

Life without commercials, canned laughter. Besides,

hadn’t this been her plan? An educated son, a man

of the world, her little boy in a room with a view?