Loss
For three days
I drove by Napa State Hospital
unaware my sadness was not
for its endless river of lost lives
but for Cliff,
who was sent there in lieu of San Quentin
and raised money for dances
making pizza muffins
before he escaped.

Years later, we sold them
at the Flea Market
rising at dawn to chop olives
and mushrooms
and spread his Sicilian spaghetti sauce
on English muffins to bake.

At first we were too shy
to sell, so a friend
who sings loud gospel
took over shouting, "Pizza Muffins!
Made by the chef!" at the top of her voice
and people came running.

For years we lived that way,
out of my vegetable garden,
on Food Stamps and his S.S.I.
in a small cottage on the shadow side
of a valley below Mount Tamalpais.

His color was blue
and he grounded me, like a foot
pushing a spade to bedrock
through rich, black soil
and the sadness I feel in my throat
is his loss, my own critical nature
and the wild way we finally
abandoned each other and ourselves.

Indigo Joanne Hotchkiss