Jeffrey Betcher: “Golden Gate”

 

This is the fourth in a series of posts remembering the work of poet and activist Jeffrey Betcher (1960-2017)

 

Preface: Left “believing in the pack mentality of strays,” the poetry of Jeffrey Betcher speaks from the entire collective of American queer stray culture, that very lost-and-found narrative of reinvention on the docks of survival. These docks, being the green-heeled sanctuary of San Francisco from 1986-2016, these docks gave birth to an examination and liberation of meaning, as wildly honest and true-to-mirror as every queer breath weʼve danced. From this collection of Jeffrey Betcherʼs poems, “The Fucking Seasons, Selected Poems 1986 to 2016,” we hear the journeys into witness, touch the lips of knowing “love has been here. Hungry footsteps, breath released, and touch can change the land forever.” A San Franciscan born of rural Ohio, Jeffrey Betcherʼs poetry informs the landscape of nature, saying simply, “Iʼm a witness. Love has been here.”

– Toussaint St. Negritude,
Poet, bass clarinetist, composer

 

Golden Gate 

standing above the golden gate
screaming at ocean waves that 
weave beyond the mouth and 
at buried rocks’ teasing tips and 
at the sun somewhere in the 
sky as it is daytime and the fog 
is hidden in the rhythm of 
meandering scenes that rebuke 
sense, i am noticing the 
desertion of the bridge by gull 
man and machine and all 
around the city and bay the 
familiar art of ancient astronauts 
and a whisper of function 
louder than my yell from the 
center about something the 
tourists and natives forgot. 

– November 20, 1991, San Francisco

 

(C) 2017 Jeffrey L. Betcher Living Trust

 

About the Author: Jeffrey Betcher donned many hats over more than 30 years in San Francisco, yet maintained an integrity of purpose. A writer, an educator, an advocate for the prevention of violence against women and children, and a grassroots community organizer, he gained national attention as a leader in the “guerrilla gardening” movement, helping transform his crime-ridden street in the Bayview neighborhood into an urban oasis. His intimate poetry was also cultivated over the decades, exploring survival and engagement, and the labyrinth of the heart. Though he dodged the HIV bullet in the plague-torn years, a terminal bout of cancer cut his life short in 2017. In addition to his chapbook of Selected Poems (1986-2016), he completed an epic sonnet, Whistling Through, an odyssey into the cancer machine and death itself

 

More By Jeffrey Betcher:

Dear Allen Ginsberg

Billy Dew Meadow

Kezar Pavilion

 

Image Credit: Carol Highsmith “Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California” The Library of Congress

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