Photo by Christopher Raley

I’ll write this as straight as possible.
If there is poetry in it
you will have to find it
without being dishonest.

Twenty years ago when I lived in Salem, Oregon,
I often smoked cigars.
I was captivated by their names,
infatuated with their Anglo overtones,
and in love with their iconography.
I frequented a place called
The Green Door Parlor. A middle aged man
ran it in back of a wine shop.
I would look around the stone cellar,
which functioned as a natural humidifier,
for something to my liking,
then step through the green door to the parlor.
It had old, over-stuffed chairs, couches,
and dim lighting. The man would play Billie Holiday
and leave me alone with my smoke and my thoughts.
I used to take my notebook with me
and write what I called poetry
because I believed that the parlor was
the ideal place of inspiration,
and if I had an idea for a poem
I would go there to write it.
But one day I came to the parlor
and the man told me that
he had been made to close it.
His crime was that he had served wine
to a group of friends. Apparently
he had a license to sell wine, but
he did not have a license to
pour it out of a bottle
after someone else bought it.
I was angry about this at the time
and used the incident as further reason
to cast aspersions on our government.
But now I am grateful, even to bureaucrats.
Mendacity, sooner or later, destroys the individual,
even while he pursues the facade
he believes to be individuality.
I offer this simple observation:
the door was green before there was a parlor.

I had missed that point completely.

Poems and photos. Contact me at

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