Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Nature of Distraction

When I read the poem, "San Francisco Remembered," earlier today, I couldn't help laughing out loud. The sweet honesty with which the poet shares his ability to be so easily distracted was most refreshing, his use of imagery to bring his main idea into focus again and again is the stuff out of which good writing is made. While sitting with it for a minute, I recalled a conversation I had recently with a friend in which we were talking about, among other things, Hank Thompson and his song, "The Wild Side of Life," which Kitty Wells answered with a song of her own, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," way back in the before time, when country and western music was really country and western.

That prompted me, albeit in a rather roundabout fashion, to think in terms of an answer to this poem in the form of my own distractions. I'm not immune to such things. So, while I think about that and the approach I might take to this little exercise, you go ahead and read the poem. Perhaps you'll come up with some thoughts of your own along these lines.

But don't be looking for that post any time soon. You know, distractions and all ...

"San Francisco Remembered"

In summer the polleny light bounces off the white buildings
& you can see their spines & nerves & where the joints knot.
You've never seen such polleny light. The whole city shining
& the women wearing dresses so thin you could see their
wing-tipped hips & their tall silvery legs alone can knock
your eye out. But this isn't about women. It's about the city of
blue waters & fog so thick it wraps round your legs & leaves
glistening trails along the dark winding streets. Once I followed
such a trail & wound up beside this redheaded woman who
looked up & smiled & let me tell you you don't see smiles like
that in Jersey City. She was wearing a black raincoat with
two hundred pockets & I wanted to put my hands in each one.
But forget about her. I was talking about the fog which steps
up & taps your shoulder like a panhandler who wants bus fare
to a joint called The Paradise & where else could this happen?
On Sundays Golden Gate Park is filled with young girls strolling
the transplanted palms & imported rhododendron beds.
You should see the sunset in their eyes & the sway, the proud
sway of their young shoulders. Believe me, it takes a day or two
to recover. Or the trolleys clanking down the steep hills—
why you see legs flashing like mirrors! Please, Lord,
please let me talk about San Francisco. How that gorilla of a
bridge twists in the ocean wind & the earth turns under
your feet & at any moment the whole works can crack
& slip back into the sea like a giant being kicked off his raft
& now, if it's all right, I would like to talk about women …

~ Philip Schultz, from The God of Loneliness: Selected and New Poems, Houghton Mifflin, 2010


  1. Loved the trail of this poem, thanks for the distraction.

  2. A great sense of humor -- fine writer. Enjoyed your post -- barbara

    1. Fun, isn't it? I didn't expect it going in, which made it all the more fun. Thanks, Barbara

  3. aw... love this, Teresa ... I'm heading that way! old memories are coming back... I hope the years away ... I don't know... you talk about an emotional trip back to San Francisco. I'm almost afraid!

    It's always had such a special place in my life...

    hahaa 200 pockets...

    1. Hey, let go and have fun! "Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair." :)

      I mean it.

  4. A fun set of thoughts. I liked the photo having played a lot under the Golden Gate bridge.

  5. I can see it, San Francisco, in this poem. Maybe there's hope for me.

  6. LOL! Probably the way most male minds work the majority of the time. ;) Couldn't help but chuckle. I am easily sidetracked, but not by men--LOL!

  7. As we just were in San Fran last evening on a TV show called "Waterfront Cities of the World" this was a very relevant post! Thanks!

  8. Hah! This says a lot to me about the nature of men and their distraction. Now I have to pay attention and try to figure out what things distract me. Shiny objects, maybe?

    1. Now you have me thinking about the Mars rover and shiny objects. Talk about distractions. :)

  9. I was laughing out loud as I read this. Especially "She was wearing a black raincoat with
    two hundred pockets & I wanted to put my hands in each one.
    But forget about her." Sooooo funny! I'm laughing again just thinking about this.

    This poem is also very alive and poignant. Something you don't see very often. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Hey Bill, I'm glad you found it funny, too. I also love the line, "Please, lord, please let me talk about San Francisco." LOL

      I'm still chuckling over one of your hounds letting you know you'd screwed up the food and water placement. :)

  10. Lovely gentle and humorous stream of consciousness poem. I haven't encountered this writer before .

  11. Dear Teresa, oh this made me grin and then grin wider. He's trying so hard to write about San Francisco and its tall building and spanning Golden Gate. But those girls keep distracting him.

    I'm reminded of those days when I hear a song and it's within my heart and mind for days afterward and I find myself humming and singing its words.

    That happened for me yesterday when I the words of "Les Miserables," which I watched on PBS on Sunday, would not let me go. They haunted me, just as those women with their eyes and legs and being lured the poe away from intent. Peace.

    1. Dee. Isn't this a fun poem? I just love how he struggles to stay focused. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.