Shades: Poetry by Jim Nawrocki

Originally featured in the January 2010 issue of A&U.



Inspired by the filming of Gus Van Sant’s film Milk,
in San Francisco’s Castro district, January, 2008

They brought back facades from thirty years ago:
the camera shop and Toad Hall. They parked old Chevys,
old VWs and old Fords, up and down the hill.
Each morning, each evening, I walked through the 1970s.

The past can be as present as a light you switch on,
or walk into. One night I watched Sean Penn climb atop a wall
to rally a crowd the way Harvey did. I stood in the chill
beside the machinery of illusion—a line of police dividing us.

This was a season of the walking dead, and I wondered
if any of those, gone now twenty years, might be there too,
staring out through bar glass and walking within
that remade river of candlelight. Or maybe only waiting,

like those men I passed every morning each one
with a black jacket marked, SECURITY, each one
bored, lounging, and dozing beside the big white trucks,
guarding the apertures of memory.

—Jim Nawrocki


Jim Nawrocki’s poetry recently appeared in the anthology, The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed (Sixteen Rivers Press). It has also appeared in Kyoto Journal, Poetry, Chroma Journal, modern words, and the website Poetry Daily ( He writes regularly for the Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide.