Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Small Poem for San Antonio

I've been reading all these posts from attendees of the San Antonio worldcon and thinking, "Boy, people sure do love worldcons when I'm not there."

But I was at the last San Antonio worldcon in 1997. That's the only way I remember the year Princess Di died -- I'd heard the news just as I was heading over to the Hugos.

It was also the place where I read "The Measure of All Things" to an audience of one in an enormous room. And he insisted on sitting near the back. But he liked it, and requested a copy, which I was only too glad to send.

Oh yeah, and I remember attending an afternoon reception with these folks from something called Alexandria Digital Literature. You see, e-lit was going to be the next big thing. They were only about a dozen years ahead of their time.

I had a great time there. Got to meet Michael Moorcock on the hotel elevator. Heard some great jazz at The Landings. Was on a panel about Ace Specials. Another panel on the near-thirtieth anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also got to hear Betty Anne Hull interview GoH Algis Budrys -- and to hear Budrys sing a Lithuanian folk song. No one mentioned it in the eulogies, but that man had a beautiful voice.

Got a poem out of the experience, too.

This originally appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated number 23, which came out in May of 2002. Eric M. Heideman's the editor, but the poetry editor at the time, if I recall,  was the incomparable Rebecca Marjesdatter.

I have locked a poem away
to keep it small.
There it is, on a little yellow pad
in a white envelope
in a book bag, away from the light.
I haven’t opened them since I left
San Antonio, a city with far, far
too much light.
In such a city, a poem might grow
to the size of a granny, a big
granny – sumo-sized; a gleeful
smiling face of pasted wrinkles hovering above
these jeep-sized water balloons of arms, thighs, belly –
What a jungle of poetry that city
would be if it were not as prosaic
as all get-out, which is what the poets
do – get out.
Get out and get out. If poets
can breathe the San Antonio air
it is only after midnight, or later
when the Riverwalk restaurateurs
begin to disperse, and the periwinkle
clickety-clack malls are bright
and empty,
and the Menger shuts its back doors
and the Alamo chapel bathes in golden
strobes and wears a silver moonlight
rim like a white feather of panache.
The bar of the Crockett Hotel is as crammed
as a rush-hour bus with ghosts
and the bank behind the Texas Theater’s fa├žade
dissolves, and you can walk through the doors,
pay your fifty cent ticket and drag
a bag of popcorn into the grand
auditorium and watch the rusty, rosy
Ben Johnson faces as big as sea serpents
weather away in the Texas air on that big screen
as they hoot and holler on horseback
(and their daughters shop at Dillard’s for
bookish little jumpers and black berets).
There is a breeze alive along the
Riverwalk, now empty, potentially
dangerous, potentially clairvoyant
potentially transitive, and off you go
like a brushfire as the antique
light poles and contemporary aluminum
signs bang and slap
like drummers in a rhythmless purgatory.
At street level, jeeps and trucks
blow down the street, unfixed and ownerless
and orphaned, rolling on their sides like laughing ushers.
The light is like sand blown southward,
collecting in corners under the mammoth mosaics
and makeshift murals.
From the observation decks, the last
gray-eyed tourists look down on the invisible city
and remark upon the fleeing light,
the absence of which makes every
orange and red neon bar sign
blaze like molten ingots,
and leaves on the tongue of every
San Antonian the residue
of poetry, dry and tart,
vacated, expatriate, available,
until the sun rises
and I put this poem back
into the yellow pad, snap it shut,
seal the white envelope
and stuff it into the book bag.
See? I’ve left it out too long.
It was meant to be
a small poem.


  1. Yay! A lovely poem. I am a fan Richard.

    1. Chuck,


      Hope you have a great Labor Day.

      -- Rich