Our weekly poetry feature brings Los Angeles to life through the words of artists spanning every part of the metropolis.
As dawn breaks through the crimson curtains,
you rise, kiss Amá goodbye, the only time
I see you do this, drive away,
circles of dust and tire marks remain.
You return four months later with the trunk full
of crates of strawberries peaches, apricots,
grapes, and plums. The nectar seduces our lips,
seeps through our fingers. Our nights fill
with dreams of this Garden hidden
in the center of the valley.
Most nights you sit in the dark, whisper
about a scornful sun, of being forced
by a landowner to hold a blue whistle
between your lips so you won’t be tempted
to consume the fruits you pick. The sound
of whistles merged with the rustle of the wind
fills the fields like a bird song.
“If politics were the science of humanity.”
Dear American people, I’ve just got
to talk to you about your government.
You are the government,
the way we are the earth and sky, the way
we are the blood and the government
the branches of the tree. You and I
are the government and we need
no more amateur presidents, please.
Once again, if you and I are the suit,
the government’s the tie we wear into the world.
America, we are the fabric; and to knit that tie together
takes statecraft. Is it too much to ask ourselves
to pay attention?
To make of government a proper tool?
It’s late, so the late
Karen Carpenter comes off
the radio at 1 a.m. The diners
complain; she’s passé, she’s so
post-mortem. You see,
it’s Night of the Living.
Outside the sirens rise up
and home in. Now I’m upstairs
asleep, lost to this din,
but downstairs the Usuals
stake out a square
of linoleum, sit down and
Like the jailed I bet
they get the same damn thing.
They sip the rim. I bet
at this hour the donuts
lie face up, half
human. The walls are glass
there, so those guys can see
the fix they’re in: a block
of illegally parked cars,
after the long day’s hustle, Papa returned
home waving fistfuls of Tootsie Rolls, wolfed down
his supper, changed from his suit into his long-sleeved
gray coveralls or blue cotton smock and slid out of
silky stockings and Italian leather loafers into white
cotton socks and well-scuffed All-American work shoes
for his night shift scrubbing and waxing corporation floors
we missed his loud full laughter
around the television and what company we had
wasn’t as interesting as the visitors
who came through when he hung around home
but we trusted Papa was doing his best
to become “healthy, wealthy and wise”
without shame over shameful wages—enough
indian head nickels to finance a scheme
(the men he worked graveyard with
always became buddies
and no matter whose car broke down,