Our weekly poetry feature brings Los Angeles to life through the words of artists spanning every part of the metropolis.
One by one, like guests at a late party
They shake our hands and step into the dark:
Arabian ostrich; Long-eared kit fox; Mysterious starling.
One by one, like sheep counted to close our eyes,
They leap the fence and disappear into the woods:
Atlas bear; Passenger pigeon; North Island laughing owl;
Great auk; Dodo; Eastern wapiti; Badlands bighorn sheep.
One by one, like grade school friends,
They move away and fade out of memory:
Portuguese ibex; Blue buck; Auroch; Oregon bison;
Spanish imperial eagle; Japanese wolf; Hawksbill
Sea turtle; Cape lion; Heath hen; Raiatea thrush.
One by one, like children at a fire drill,
Jam-Up on the Cat-Oh-Five
We live in LA, city of traffic jams on the 405 and other freeways.
One recent morning we had three cats bunched up on the patio outside our cat door.
Elise’s traffic report: “It’s a jam-up on the cat-oh-five!”
Rearview Mirror Tableau on Highway 5 South
She’s passenger. He’s driving.
Her face is angry and she speaks quickly.
She leans away from him. He leans toward her.
Hills driving north from L.A. on the 5 freeway display a rough beauty:
Mustard yellow, splotched with tufts of scraggly live oaks;
Hunched against drifty white clouds; skinned shoulders rust veined.
Jeff Rogers has posted hundreds of poems in the “Three Line Lunch” series at www.fierceandnerdy.com,
for at least an hour. Maybe longer. It was longer.
No one spoke, looked away, or drew attention
with their hands. A few of us opened our mouths,
a few always do. We didn’t know we’d done it.
No one saw. Like losing a button. We were busy
not speaking. We had drinks, a few snacks, watched
TV with the sound off. A few of us thought about
the button, the one that says MUTE, how common
it is now. We tried to imagine it on other things,
things that don’t speak but are loud: lamps, guns,
a fire truck with MUTE painted on it. It would’ve
looked good on us, stenciled white across our chests.
We wore dark colors, earth tones. No one calls them
dirt tones or soil.
They wake like cosmetic surgery patients.
Memories of crawling vanish
as the sun warms the body
they could not have dreamed of:
Provence Chalk-Hill Blue,
Great Spangled Fritillary.
When the woman I married woke up
next to the wrong man,
that was my signal
to become inert,
I want to be great,
I want the caterpillar’s gift to the butterfly—
amnesia, and wings.
Source: The poem originally appeared in Pearl and was reprinted in Amnesia and Wings, published by Tebot Bach (2013).
Photo: Derek Ramsey
Larry Colker has been co-hosting the weekly Redondo Poets reading at Coffee Cartel in Redondo Beach for more than a decade. His poems have appeared in Spillway,
Desert breath blows,
tree tops twist.
Sweat salts my skin.
All it takes is one
I kneel down—watch
as the wind
picks it up. I withdraw,
at what I’ve unleashed
on every channel
No one knows.
Nothing can stop it.
I don’t need anyone,
closer now—so high
I can’t stop.
Marilyn N. Robertson’s work has been published in Speechlessthemagazine, The Boston Literary Magazine, Chopin with Cherries, A Tribute in Verse, and is forthcoming in The Poetry Mystique, to be published by Duende Books. She was a featured reader in “Viva Poetry,”