Once upon a time when we all lived in the forest
musicians came to tall slippery stones twice their height
and sang of emperors who emptied buckets
of opals and amethysts
over cliffs to be eaten by wild beasts.
Once upon a time a broken rib cage
big as a city covered with purple flowers
where languid women feasted on poppies and teased foxcubs,
tickling their bellies.
Once upon a time wolves rode painted ferris wheels
higher than the highest trees and took bites out of the moon.
White blood flowed in rivers where underwater nightclubs
flashed disco balls and salmon ate sequins. Masked dancers
partnered only by their own shadows. Pearl-handled revolvers
grew like toadstools in circles on funeral moss,
thick and squelchy.
The wizard’s hit moved around, a road of shiny pebbles
and a low thatched roof,
spellbooks made of stinging blue flowering nettles.
Don’t touch. A tiger that leapt out of the noonday sun.
Once upon a time when church bells rang in tall dark pines
and toy cars croaked on lilypads like frogs.
Once upon a time there was no time,
Death and Love slept in each other’s arms.

Julia Vinograd was Berkeley’s informal “poet laureate.” Her poems about Telegraph Avenue and life in Berkeley in the late 60’s and beyond were beloved by many. She died in December, 2018.