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Our weekly poetry feature brings Los Angeles to life through the words of artists spanning every part of the metropolis.

  • Words of FireJanuary 16, 2014adminsm


    I knew him. He ran the lathe next to mine.
    Perfectionist, a madman, even on overtime
    Saturday night. Hum of the crowd floating
    from the ball park, shouts, slamming doors
    from the bar down the street, he would lean
    into the lathe and make a little song
    with the honing cloth, rubbing the edges,
    smiling like a man asleep, dreaming.
    A short guy, but fearless. At Margie’s
    he would take no lip, put the mechanic big
    as a Buick through a stack of crates out back
    and walked away with a broken thumb
    but never said a word. Marge was a loud,
    dirty girl with booze breath and bad manners.
    He loved her. One night late I saw them in
    the kitchen dancing something like a rhumba
    to the radio, dishtowels wrapped around
    their heads like swamis.

     » Read more about: Keats  »

  • Words of FireDecember 19, 2013adminsm

    Christmas Eve, 1984, “Motel X”

    It’s 10 p.m. when the taxi glides
                               into the rain-slicked parking lot.
    A woman in slippers gets out
                     bundling a baby in her arms.

    Next, comes a small boy dragging a shopping bag
                               filled with a jumble of clothes.
    “Your room is Number 9,” I say pointing,
                     and the woman hurries towards it.

    As we follow, I lift the bag from the boy,
                               his face and neck dark with bruises.
    When we reach the door, he stops, asks,
                     “Will he find us here?”

    I want to say, No, honey,
                               that bastard will never find you here.
    Instead, I whisper, “Who?”
                     His voice, a twist of worry and hope, he says,


    Cece Peri’s poems have appeared in Gift of Words: Poems for the Iraqi People; Luvina: Los Angeles Issue (University of Guadalajara);

     » Read more about: Christmas Eve, 1984, “Motel X”  »

  • Words of FireDecember 5, 2013adminsm

    Poem: Southerly Equinox

    the age of the innerview dawns and the need
    to be first is muted by a
    multitude of passings/desire honed so sharp
    the edges bleed, lips and hands
    assume a silent patience/at rest as a savage
    brilliance is reborn in this ancient ravaged griot

    who am i? what am i? are no longer important questions.
    knowing that i am is finally enough
    like discovering dessert is delicious following a disastrous
    meal, a sweetness that reawakens
    the palate, or finding that one’s chalice is unexpectedly
    filled with elixir of euphoria

    and i stumble happily into the cornucopia, arms
    outstretched, upturned, drunk
    my heart athrum, bones full samba. the night
    blesses me with his constellations
    baptizes me with his deathless autumnal chill
    and i invade the moody indigo

    full-throated and singing

     » Read more about: Poem: Southerly Equinox  »

  • Culture & MediaOctober 31, 2013adminsm

    Poem: Refugees, Late Summer Night


    Woke with a start, the dogs
    barking out by the fence,
    yard flooded with
    light. Groped my way
    to the window.
    Out on the road a dozen quick
    figures hugging to shadows:
    bundles slung at their shoulders
    & water jugs at their hips. You
    could hear, under the rattle of
    wind, as they passed, the crunch of
    sneakers on gravel. Pollos. Illegals
    who’d managed to slip past the
    Border Patrol, its Broncos
    & choppers endlessly circling the
    canyons & hills between here & Tecate.
    Out there, in the dark, they could have
    been anyone: refugees from Rwanda,
    slaves pushing north.
    Palestinians, Gypsies, Armenians, Jews….
    The lights of Tijuana, that yellow
    haze to the west, could have
    been Melos, Cracow, Quang Ngai….
    I watched from the window till they were lost in
    the shadows.

     » Read more about: Poem: Refugees, Late Summer Night  »

  • Culture & MediaOctober 24, 2013adminsm

    Poem: Lot’s Wives


    We stood,
    as women before us have stood,

    looking back at our burning cities,
    watching the smoke
    rise from our empty homes.

    It was quiet then. And cold.

    We heard their cries, the caged birds
    clawing at their perches, our daughters
    naked in the hungry mob.

    Such death. The smell of justice
    drifting on the burnt wind.

    We saw it all,
    saw the fire fall like rain,

    saw our tears
    track stiff, white veins
    down our bodies,

    saw the brine crawl
    through salt-cracked skin.

    Now, turning in the restless night,
    we dream we stand there still,
    alone on the hill’s black belly.

    We, the forgotten,
    whose names were swallowed by God.


    This poem first appeared in Ploughshares,

     » Read more about: Poem: Lot’s Wives  »

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