Our weekly poetry feature brings Los Angeles to life through the words of artists spanning every part of the metropolis.
Vocation of the Chair
It longs to be the one
who holds you, keeps you
from falling, its curved legs
shapely as a bride.
The chair that would be saint.
martyr, acolyte. Your little
sins of omission and false pride
cannot sway it — the chair believes
in you. It grows taller in the dark.
Soon it will fill the room,
its cushion of praise all you need
in the crude and faithless light.
Laurel Ann Bogen is the author of 10 books of poetry and short fiction. In 2016, Red Hen Press will publish All of the Above: New and Selected Poems 1975-2015. From 1996 until 2002 she was literary curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The Passionate Suitcase
I fall out of the door on my way to you, and the passionate
the old one, so many times strapped back together—
comes unstrapped. The leather ties slap at my calves like
tongues. The five silver dollars I got from my uncle for spelling
Mediterranean Sea roll along the ground. I believe the moon
I fall out of the door on my way to you one terrible night and the
passionate suitcase unhinges its mouth the way children sob. My
clothes lie in puddles at my feet. Pools of rice, pools of soft
lingerie. Which is more than the traffic of leaving; more than I’d
wanted to kneel, gather up.
I fall out of the door on my way to you with the passionate suitcase
I’ve carried so long flapping its one broken arm in the breeze.
— East Berlin
There is a pen scratching across a wall.
It is a white wall inside a white church
inches away from faces, crowds, the tumult
of history, but right now, there is only a pen,
bumping along a wall, no meaning
except the rise and fall of this nib,
a needle from an outdated gramophone,
playing each ridge and trough,
a landscape of chalk and moon.
Pireeni Sundaralingam is co-editor of Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas Press, 2010), which won both the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles National Book Award and the 2011 Northern California Book Award. Her own poetry has been published in journals such as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner and The Progressive, anthologies by W.W. Norton, Prentice Hall and Macmillan,
Marina woke me up and told me the garage next door was on fire
I got off the couch and climbed on the brick wall with the hose
I pointed the hose at the neighbor’s smoking garage
Its walls emitted white light and exploded into sheets of flame
Marina did as I said and pounded on the window of the house, but
no one seemed to be home; those neighbors never said hello
I put water on their roof, which was starting to smoke as the garage
was wholly consumed, flames thirty feet in the air and even across
thirty or forty feet of concrete the roof of the house was catching fire
I yelled at Marina to tell someone to call the fire department, which
arrived and the house was saved
Marina only six or seven,
was a time I would eat anything
torn from my body, as a city
recycles its bricks after trauma.
so I would eat the bitter black things,
those brittle wound stones. was a time, torn,
I’d eat anything from my body,
those yellowed bark ridges. a city
recycles gypsum after trauma.
I’d eat anything, pale crescents torn,
those Moor-less swords. after, a city
recycles. green things from my body,
those rotting gems. those sour gray things—
wasted clay. city, after trauma,
recycles its iron, those bones torn
from a city as though—a body:
those swords and bones, gypsum, gems, trauma:
a torn time recycled. a body
as a city, torn into a thing.
Source: The Black Automaton (2009), published by Fence Books.
An award-winning poet, performer and librettist,