Delusions of Grandeur

by Dan Harder

San Francisco, California

With a soiled mirror in his hand, a torn t-shirt on his back, and a cockeyed crown on his head (red velvet, gold trim, taller than wide—impressive) a middle-aged black man walks down the street in the new Mission gesticulating imperiously while glancing at the blurred image in his hand-held mirror—a master of his own reality, free to promulgate his terrifying decrees to an audience of one as he, seemingly indifferent, weaves past groups of software engineers and social media moguls—the dukes and duchesses of the modern world seated on the sidewalk with beer, wine, and artisanal cheese, their crowning achievements enshrined in the algorithms by which we live, and live well, in this rich, rich kingdom of things, a realm stubbornly unaffected by the brief passing of a foreign, less fortunate king.

Wild Horses

No… no, it couldn’t be—and yet, it certainly looks like Bianca Jagger has lost her mind this Tuesday morning at the corner of 4th and Mission where she, for a moment, rests her long back backwards and puts her head on a dirty pillow at the top of a shopping cart full of all the things she owns and, while looking up at the overcast sky, yells—”Yeah, the cops, the fucking cops say 'no' but I say yes, I say yes, the light's not gonna get me. I hear the music—I AM the music… and I don't need to move!” And she doesn't for a moment, then, all of a sudden she straightens up, adjusts her sunglasses, looks around like a worried stork, sees something that's not quite right, mutters through lips smeared with lipstick, “You can't do that to me, you can't do that to me,” grabs her shopping cart and dashes across the street in high heels, her long, slender, black-stockinged legs running, her fashionable and dirty hat flapping in the breeze she creates for herself while running, running away, running to another corner where she can put her head down on her dirty pillow, rest for a moment, and BE the music once again on a new corner where it will take more than wild horses (but little more than a though that something's not quite right) to drive her away this time.

Can Sadness Be Serene?

Our tribes are now so mixed, it’s hard to tell where anyone’s from, and so it was with the man I passed in slow rush-hour traffic sitting in the sun on the north side of a one-way street that leads directly to a bridge and irreversibly out of town, his knees up and under a tattered blanket (it was a cool winter day), his eyes were closed, his head tilted back, and his face—one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen (oh, to have been able to sculpt him just so…)—with skin the light translucent dark of a young French chestnut, his lips full and frighteningly set like a Mayan warrior, his head—the unwrinkled surface of Chinese jasper, his aspect: resigned, calm, serene in his despair—a Tibetan monk sleeping in the temporary safety of the sun near a busy road before the night with its dark, messy, aggressive dangers disturbs the balance of this small, beautiful man without a home.

Dan Harder has published lots of poetry, a couple of children’s books, stage-plays (one nominated for a Pulitzer), opera librettos, and dozens of articles and essays. He recently published a novel, Rancho de Amor, and is presently working on a commission from the Oakland Symphony—a libretto for an opera about Paul Robeson. See for details.