The Golden Gate

Vikram Seth’s novel in verse will make you remember that your worries are all about things that merely sustain life, but love, passion, and the beauty of nature are what we live for.  

The Golden Gate found me as I was browsing boxes filled with old books on a flea market somewhere in the Inner Sunset. I picked it up out of curiosity. I bought it because I wanted to read more poetry. I found it refreshing to read poetry that is something different yet familiar. Familiar in the sense that it speaks about my city – the place where I live, love, and linger (sometimes at the expense of my plentiful responsibilities). Here are some notable verses that let my mind wander:

“Subdued and silent, he surveys it–
The loveliest city in the world.
No veiling words suffice to praise it,
But if you saw it as, light-pearled,
Fog-fingered, pinnacled, I see it
Across the black tide, you’d agree it
Outvied the magic of our own.
Even tonight, as Ed, alone,
Makes out Marina, plaza, tower,
Fort Point, Presidio–he feels
A benediction as it steals
Over his heart with its still power.
He thinks, “I’ll phone Phil. No, instead,
Better to write him, as he said” ”

“From the tall overlook, the indented
Shoreline extends in cliffs and bays
And promontories through the scented
Wind-sheared sage northwest to Point Reyes.
Northward, Mount Tamalpais lowers;
Southward, through leather fearns, wildflowers
–Tangling and twining through the lush
Confusion of coyote brush
And winter weeds–the blue Pacific,
Unwrinkled as a pond, defines
With wharves and cypresses and pines
Three edges of the hieroglyphic
Of San Francisco, still and square
And sun-bleached in the ocean air.”

“Some claim the coast of California
Is seasonless, that there’s no snow
To flavor winter. Others, born here
Or fleeing here–glad to forgo
The option of frostbitten fingers
And housebound months as hoarfrost lingers
Upon the firs, less picturesque
Than deadening, while from their desk
They’d stare past dark eaves fringed with icicles
Well into March, and scarcely dare
To breathe the east or midwest air–
Now yield, with tank tops, frisbees, bicycles,
Dogs, cats, and kids and tans and smiles
To spring’s precocious warmth and wiles.”

Reading The Golden Gate was a struggle, but after a few pages, the eloquent rhymes create a harmony with the storyline that is indescribable but captivating. Read it cover to cover or take a slow and deliberate approach to each verse. The Golden Gate will deliver. Eureka!

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