A benefit screening of the film Milk at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, October 28, 2008.
Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle via SFGATE.com

Peter Dale Scott
a selection from his new book of poems Walking on Darkness
Movie Premiere

To James Schamus

“For there is no mystery without dancing” -- Lucian
“And we are all mortal” – John F. Kennedy, 1963

After the world movie premiere			              Milk, October 28, 2008
we are ferried in buses to this great 			  
rotunda of San Francisco City Hall
where just a few minutes ago we saw 
the tormented image of Dan White
stalking Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk
to the music of Tosca	
Gently intoxicated from two Camparis	     
and surrounded by a dark sea
of literally hundreds									
of stolid gay men in business suits and ties						
while still in my dirty old straw hat			
I wore this afternoon in the Castro		          
to protect against any more basal skin cancers				

I rise to what I might not dare if sober
and dance with a tiny clutch of beautiful women
one of whom I see the next day		           
from the front page photo in the Chronicle	           
is Sean Penn’s wife
and another in green whose mysterious					
smile in the midst of her Bacchic abandon
engages me like Daphne’s whom I adored 		           
(from very far off) when I was fifteen 

All this happiness is let’s face it
just a huge ego trip										
my fifteen minutes with the glitterati
the latest Mayor for the moment and the rich 		
who unlike Dan and myself have paid 
a thousand bucks each for all this food 

but the richest experience is this free-form dance		
the dance where the ego full of itself  					
is lifted for moments in quiet joy 
above its usual frontiers
that same inner force that directs poems
guiding my movements into something shared				

       a glimpse
       of the erotic mystery
       The world is one

At the Thai village by the kwan                                                   lake
during the Loy Krathong			     	                          harvest water festival
I moshed with the crowds of beautiful teenagers				
behind the big-rig tractors and their trailers
each ferrying the solemn retinue in white
of another district beauty queen		
to the blare of hard rock and generators	
the heavens filling slowly
with a trail of white hot-air lanterns					                     khom fai
lifting from where we are towards the sky
halting baskets at first	     then planetlike					

I danced with those teenagers
their parents and grandparents						
bottles of naam kaao passed around			                             rice liquor
brazen mothers thrusting their shy daughters
towards this unavailable old farang					                      westerner
to the disgust of my good friend Pak	
who as a Buddhist doesn’t even drink
especially since her brother’s death on a motorbike

but the monks were pressed three deep
on the deck of the village temple tower and smiling 
with what I imagine could be empathic joy	 		                       mudita
they too were part of that festival			
while tonight outside the Castro Theatre
on the opposite side of the barricaded street	
the chilled crowds waited to watch us leave	
and waved their placards No on Eight		                 Anti-Gay Marriage Proposition.

With Peter Coyote the Buddhist movie star
I chat about Gary Snyder in Kitkitdizze
off the grid in the high Sierra 					
having chosen as a rule to live outside
this great whirlpool of entropy
like Thomas Merton in Gethsemani							
mindful as we all should be
how those who push wanton wars get reelected
and killing a gay man may get you five years          

and I shock Dan Ellsberg on the shuttle bus
You (like Harvey Milk) are a man of faith!	
Without assurances from a higher power
or White’s frozen incrustations of belief
you have risked your life
having glimpsed what others before you glimpsed --
seekers like Lennon no less than King and Gandhi --			
a better life a novus ordo 			
seclorum for which there is (not counting
the wad of folded mottos in our wallets) 	
so little evidence		

and yet when I dance with strangers --		
arm draped for a lingering instant
over warm green shoulders which in another instant
I’ll never see again --
there is this inexplicable plus 							
my self well-nourished becomes more generous				
I am lifted by this sense of being grateful
to you San Francisco city on seven hills
of gays, rednecks, Marxists, Catholics			 
where it is ordered we should love our neighbor	 			
and forgive their trespasses		 

and to you, James! prestidigital Prospero!					
who made all these imaginations happen 	
in the midst of our aporetic rough world
we are in not of							
but born to enjoy

as we awaken 	   very slowly
to what we cannot know

						October 29, 2008


from Peter Dale Scott's
forthcoming book Walking on Darkness:

     Peter Dale Scott
Walking on Darkness

Sheep Meadow Press
Publication date: September 6, 2016
$16.95 Paperback
ISBN: 9781937679644