The City Breathing
Consider three a.m. when the city begins
to breathe without labor, its inky exhalations
unfolding around the custodians of night:
doorman, trash picker, street sweep,
caretaker, cook. The woman making a bed
from slatted bench, the man rattling iron grates
to summon the comfort of echoes.
A bus driver carves a path up Broadway,
carries his fragile cargo away from
the city center where these guardians tend
its injuries while we sleep.
Let them be cloaked in the phosphor
of a falling star. Let them be warmed by
the breath of a world made new.
Source: First published, in slightly different form, as part of Terry Wolverton/Writers at Work “Common Prayers” Poetry Postcards Project, supported by a grant from the City of Los Angeles.
Candace Pearson’s “Hour of Unfolding” won the 2010 Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry from Longwood University.
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Trouble Down the Road
At the flat top grill, he was all business,
flung raw eggs dead center into the corned beef
hash like a strapping southpaw.
In the alley, with me, he was all ideas.
Said he’d be leaving soon, had a shot back east—
a tryout for the big leagues.
Said his sister would loan him a Buick convertible,
and he’d fill it with malt beer and tuna.
All he needed was a woman to hold
his cat while he drove.
I like animals, I told him. Then I dropped
my cigarette into the dusty clay,
ground it out, slow,
felt the road under my foot.
Source: Luvina, Issue 57 (December 2009).
Cece Peri’s poems have appeared in journals and magazines, including Luvina: Writers of Los Angeles Issue (University of Guadalajara),
Read the Writing
Read the writing on the cinder block wall:
Joker, Jasper, Dopey, Termite, Tokes, Crow.
It’s not an “is it art?” debate, at all;
these are the monochromatic zip codes
of my gangster, tattooed, sharp-creased cousins.
Scribbled in black on a bus bench, strangled
names crossed out, over names crossed out again,
red under yellow under green tangled
like wire. Memo, Cowboy, Flyboy, Topper.
Neil Armstrong planted a flag on the moon;
it can’t be seen from their clearly marked world
where, if you don’t live there, you better run.
Tight fence of paint, like barbed wire that’s hidden.
Trespassed borders end lives, I’m not kidding.
Source: My Name on Top of Yours (2013),
A bag of oranges
to be heavy
but hold one
yourself and count
cars driving by.
As she stands between
the stack of salty
peanuts and dusty
grapes, the bag
gets heavier and it
retains that heaviness
when it’s passed through
the window; and the driver,
hoisting it onto
the passenger’s seat,
thinks, this is a lot of
fruit for two dollars.
Source: “Complexities” first appeared in CQ: California State Poetry Quarterly, Winter 1986-1987; Volume 13, Number 4. It was subsequently selected as one of the poems for the 1988 SMARTS (Santa Monica Arts) Poetry on the Bus project. It also appeared as a spoken word track on Vehemence (New Alliance Records, 1993).
Bill Mohr is an associate professor in the Department of English at California State University,