The Wayward Poet

Ruminations, Illuminations, Musings, and Original Work by Chester Sakamoto

“Waterfront Meditation”


There are two halves constantly at war within me.

The first is control,

My center,

It is the side I am rooting for

While the other is anarchy,

Total chaos,

Whose consequences would be catastrophic

Were it to emerge victorious.

Such is the state of my psyche at any given moment.

I am a walking time bomb,

A human pressure cooker whose settings are too high.


At the age of 26

(A lifetime ago,)

My buddy and I spoke at length about the 27 Club.

Uncharacteristically grave,

He made me swear that I would never join its notorious ranks,

(Though praise be to Hendrix, Joplin, and Cobain.)


What do you do when your hometown

No longer feels like home,

When the people you love and all the memories you’ve gathered

Have gone away,

Leaving a place tinged with melancholy

Despite the near-constant sunshine?


Fleeing the unreal city,

My spirit travels a thousand miles

To the banks of a mighty river.

Resting for a moment on a loveseat,

I observe the transience of nature

And the walks of life that cross

The old suspension bridge.


Gray, ominous,

The western sky promises rain.

Needless to say, I welcome it,

So that I may emerge newly baptized

Beneath the Midwestern sun.

To be reborn to the strains of folk music

Playing on the deck

Of a passing riverboat.

© Chester Sakamoto

“Vigil for the Fisher King”

Saguaro cactus, Carnegiea gigantea

The days are numbered.


At the edge of the world,

A rest stop offering provisions for the apocalypse

Has become a gathering place for the lost souls

Who are set to embark on their eternal journey

Across the state line.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Harbors them to safety in her Model T,

Charon reincarnated.

In a café,

Scott Fitzgerald,

Sitting opposite a western banded gecko

Gets drunk on straight bourbon

And laughs maniacally,

High on the fallout from the atomic testing done here

Over sixty years ago.


Monsoon season in Arizona

Includes a downpour of vinegaroons,

Blackening the sky and littering the red earth

With legs, pincers, and carapaces.

Wandering aimlessly across the Sonoran Desert,

The mournful cry of a coyote

Reaches my ears

As do the horns of the freight trains

Which rumble through the night like summer thunder.

Bumming it in a boxcar,

I watch America zip by outside the open door,

All the while wondering what has become

Of the Dream.

© Chester Sakamoto

“Vicious Cycle”


If I stand on the corner of Mell and Collie,

Gazing past the lines of heavy traffic,

I can easily distinguish the Tower of Babel

On the skyline.


Language destroys, but it can also create.


Tuesday morning finds me

On an entirely different cosmic plane,

Where Eliot and Williams

Are locked in eternal battle,

Like the dragon and phoenix of Chinese myth,

Circling the Pearl of Wisdom.


The car stereo broadcasts an entrancing mixture

Of Beiderbecke and voodoo

As a police chopper overhead

Drops pamphlets about the corrupting influence

That is William Blake

And gives the play-by-play of the sacrificing of Trotsky

In Teotihuacán,

(See the blood pouring down the steps

Of the Pyramid of the Sun.)


O Muse,

Have you betrayed me?

Why has your voice fallen silent?

Sing me a song

To ground my wandering mind

Before it escapes like a rebellious balloon

From the vicelike grip of a child’s hand.


Tied to the streetlight, half naked,

Lorca stands with his hands bound

Above his head,

His glistening body riddled with bullet holes.

Eyes closed in rapture or pain,

He sings the praises of Saint Sebastian

Before falling limp,

A muffled “mea culpa

Escaping his chapped lips.


Headstones line the churchyard.

For all its hope and rebuilding,

The Financial District

Remains hallowed ground.

Hands in my pockets,

My collar turned up,

The water laps against the Battery,

A Japanese painting in real time.

Looking out across the river,

I see her on her pedestal.

Even now, after all these years,

She continues to weep.

© Chester Sakamoto

“Brooklyn Bridge”

Brooklyn Bridge

Observing the universe in a puddle of water,

Ganesha sacrifices his right tusk

To write down a bevy of words

In order to analyze them.

“In many traditions around the world,” he says,

“A mole on the foot means one is destined to travel.”

He suddenly turns to me, his expression grave.

“If that’s the case, then what does a mole on the brain represent?”

And it’s as if I’m falling…


The digital clock

Atop the building across the river reads 4:45 am

As my weary soul traverses the Brooklyn Bridge.

Quiet, churchlike,

Its gothic arches, stone towers,

And spider-web of cables

Call to mind the years that have elapsed

Since it first spanned the East River.

Behind me, the buildings of Manhattan

Glisten and gleam

Like thousands of jewels stacked atop one another.

I picture old Graybeard

On the deck of a ferry,

Crossing this same stretch of tributary

Well over a hundred years ago,

His mind everywhere at once

And his spirit one with the whole of time.


Across the dark water,

The Q Train rattles along the Manhattan Bridge,

Its rhythm syncopated

Like a Duke Ellington tune,

Bringing me back to the present

While the faintest of light in the eastern sky

Creates a kaleidoscopic collage of color

Reminiscent of a Mondrian painting.


And with the dawn, I am reborn.

© Chester Sakamoto

“Insurgent Art”

Keith Haring

The resistance begins underground.

Stepping out of the subway car,

A bespectacled young man,

Armed only with a piece of chalk,

Takes to a blank space of wall between two advertisements

And furiously etches a depiction

Of the Burning of Rome.

As a crowd of curious onlookers gathers ‘round him,

The scene comes to life beneath his nimble fingers:

Nero sits in the foreground, laughing maniacally,

Plucking out the chords to “Desolation Row”

On his lyre.

Citizens, both plebeians and peasants,

Make their way through a triumphal arch

As the hounds of Hell trail them in hot pursuit,

While the lone soothsayer,

Who foresaw all of this coming,

Asks forgiveness from the entire pantheon of gods

Before she chews on a cyanide pill.

The audience on the subway platform oohs and ahhs,

Unaware of what’s taking place above them,

Inches from their heads:


A vicious counteroffensive is unfolding.

Missiles loaded with hateful ideologies,

Reduce the cityscape to rubble.

Nihilist tanks

Crush any and all opposition

While fatalistic fighter jets

Run down what few survivors remain.

In an instant,

Years of hard work,


And prosperity, erased,

Completely obliterated.


But the seed has been planted.

In the muggy, dank subway station,

Protected from the destruction and violence of the surface world,

Something beautiful will arise,

A beacon in a landscape obscured by smoke and ash.

© Chester Sakamoto

“Consider the Aurochs”

  1. a large wild Eurasian ox that was the ancestor of domestic cattle. It was probably exterminated in Britain in the Bronze Age, and the last one was killed in Poland in 1627.

A strong wind blows tonight.

Catching the breeze,

I whisk myself nine thousand miles

To the caves at Lascaux

In the south of France.

There, in the dim light,

My eyes take in the legendary aurochs,

Stampeding across the stony walls

As it has for countless millennia.


Situated at the foot of Wall Street,

The bronze bull stands frozen in time,

Yet in a constant state of anticipation.

Ready to charge,

A sneer curls his lip

And his eyes contort with blind rage.


But I fear not,

For I know that he, like me,

Is a misunderstood creature,

Tethered by social constructs

And imprisoned by misconceptions.


Slowly, gingerly, I reach out my hand

To comfort the brazen beast.

When my eyes flutter open,

The anger in his gaze

Has been stripped away,

And in its place, a spark of something greater.

Is it hope?  Relief?  Happiness?

He steps forward,

Gently nuzzling my arm,

And I could swear there are tears in his eyes.

© Chester Sakamoto

“Private Outcry”


My hatred of hospitals

Dates back to my childhood

When, at the age of six,

I was confined to Urgent Care for a week

After suffering a severe asthma attack.

A terrorist cell in my lungs

Restricted all airflow,

Making each breath painful and labored.

It was as if razor blades

Had made their way into my chest.

As I lay on the gurney, recovering,

I saw all manner of people

Trudge through the automatic doors,

Moaning and carrying their exposed organs

In their hands,

Gore and viscera dripping behind them

Like the bloody trail that follows an army of wounded soldiers,

Ripped open by the scars of battle.


So, too, is the current condition of the world,

A sick, twisted place overrun by the retched,

Marred by evil and wickedness.

The earth is rushed in on a stretcher,

An IV injected into its oil-rich vein.

The nurses and doctors do all they can to save it,

But, alas, it is too late.

Violence and chaos have won.

The EKG flat-lines

And planet earth is pronounced dead

At exactly midnight

On the doomsday clock.


How can one hope to survive in an age

Where all decency

Has been thrown out the window?

Selfishness, greed, arrogance,

These are the morals of our times.

As good people suffer,

Tearfully pleading for any hope of salvation,

The vile seem to thrive

Like cockroaches,

Which have survived every cataclysm

Since the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth.


A shrill, inhuman, animal cry

Rises from the deepest fathoms of my being

And escapes from my throat with the force and power

Of a hundred nuclear detonations.

Whitman’s barbaric yawp

And the howl of Ginsberg

Pale in comparison.

It is a shriek of change,

Of revolution,

Of communal introspection,

One that I can only hope stirs fear in the hearts of those

Who are impervious to the feelings of anyone

But their own.


Satan stalks the streets of cities,

His claw-like hand leaving bloody imprints on the walls of alleys, buildings, and businesses.

In tow, his minions dance and frolic,

Imps with forked tongues and scaly skin.

They laugh maniacally at the warzone that is Skid Row.

Wayward souls,

Children of the night,

Swim in pools of spiritual stagnation

While their fever dreams keep them awake,

Shivering underneath blankets

Made from executive orders and promises not kept.


“The past is for poetry,”

Lord Krishna says to me

As he takes me in his arms and we fly

Over the rooftops of a city made of concrete and steel.

With a wave of his hand,

It all becomes a giant mandala

Whose vibrant colors and intricate pattern

Remind me of the beauty still left in the world.


Perhaps the earth can be saved.


Across the many years that have elapsed since that hospital visit,

Six-year-old me wakes up on that selfsame gurney,

A big smile plastered on my face,

For I know that the future

And humanity

Will be alright in the end.

© Chester Sakamoto



“I am signaling you through the flames.”  –Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Out of the darkness

Associated with dreamless sleep,

A series of images bubble to the surface

Like air pockets in the primordial ooze

Of a tar pit.

Prehistoric oxygen,

Trapped for eons,

Mad for a taste of sunlight.


To say “death”

Is to conjure up a thousand morbid thoughts.


Like the Dance of Death,

Where one sidesteps with the Reaper

Cheek to cheek,

Until the soul is led by an escort of angels

To become a part of the universe.


Living on society’s edge,

The addicted and the damned cry out into the night,

Clawing at their skin and reaching out for something as yet unattainable

Within a graveyard of trees.

In the dull pallor of a streetlight’s glow,

Their bodies contort into a myriad of frightening shapes.


Lying in the grass,

Not far away,

Is a red Solo cup,

A sure sign that I’ve entered someone’s drunken hallucination,

(Delirium tremens is, in fact, contagious,)

But my consciousness is drifting down the Mekong,

Or the Yangtze,

Or any river in Asia

Upon whose shores both farmers and bodhisattvas

Eke out their seemingly meaningless existence

Making a living or seeking enlightenment.


Baptism by fire

Is the only way to purge oneself of inner turmoil and strife

In this day and age.

Thus, with gasoline and a lighted match,

I situate myself in the dead center of a busy intersection

And burst into flame

Amid the shouts and chaos

That surround me.

Shanti, shanti, shanti.

© Chester Sakamoto

“California Pastoral”


The scene spills out of a saxophone,

Blue and sensuous,

As an airplane bisects the crescent moon.

The earth breathes,

Heaving a collective sigh,

Causing the leaves to rustle.


What shall we talk about tonight, Bashō?

Haiku is best understood

During the Indian summer months.


It’s just past three a.m.

When I drunkenly stumble through

The university commons.

On Fraternity Row,

The lighted windows present a myriad of tableau

As studious scholars bend over their work,

Liquid Moloch coursing through their veins.


Fog creeps down from the hills,

Filling my mind with the densest of hazes,

Obscuring my fondest memories and desires.


And I start to question if any of it’s real.

My friends, experiences,

I’ve lost all sense of time.

Even as these words appear, the days, weeks, months, and years

Vanish without a trace,

Teetering on the edge of the supermassive black hole

That is the Mojave Desert

(For all its savage beauty.)

© Chester Sakamoto

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