It’s only seconds /before someone pulls a trigger. /Only seconds
before someone plants the seeds/of a kiss.
Another Day in L.A.
Early morning symphony
of coffee brewing, babies burbling,
truck gears grinding, industry wheezing.
barrio bus-stop benches creaking,
emaciated mop-top rock-star palm trees
rustling in the breeze.
the sleeping, the dead,
and stealthy coyotes
lurking through Los Feliz neighborhoods,
garbage scraps and stray pets.
Bankers, lawyers, gangbangers.
Homemakers, social workers, sexworkers.
Everyone making deals:
another fix, another fuck, another driveby.
Another marriage abolished or saved.
Deals being made in high-rises, hotel rooms,
parked cars, courtrooms, and kitchens.
Sleazy deals tattooed with diamonds and dollar signs.
Honorable deals sealed with a handshake.
Desperate deals gone so wrong,
not even the shadows stick around to witness
all the dark that went down.
From Hollywood to Hawthorne,
Watts to Woodland Hills:
the circling and buzzing of police helicopters.
Urban birds singing only the blues.
People rushing to jobs, gyms,
malls and AA meetings.
Everyone searching for, or escaping:
demons, death, money, love, salvation.
It’s only seconds
before someone pulls a trigger.
before someone plants the seeds
of a kiss.
Promises flimsy as negligees.
Dreams too big
for a million hearts to hold.
Become a star
or slip through the cracks,
dwell anonymously as dust.
That aching feeling deep inside:
an eviction notice
being posted on your soul.
Car exhaust, factory pollution,
byproducts from aerosol cans,
and wildfire smoke
crowd out the sky.
noxious and obnoxious breathing.
At least some are comforted by the notion
that all the poisons
make for beautiful sunsets.
Evening injects meth,
makes once-wished-upon stars edgy,
chronically reaching for the burned-spoon moon.
Beneath tweaked-out galaxies,
people struggle for direction, meaning.
Others who crave
and comforting constellations
visit the walk-of-fame stars
on Hollywood Boulevard.
that are more like churches,
that are more like healers.
lives can be lost and saved
in many ways.
The dutiful and the damned,
the famous and freakish.
and cancer patients:
all are blessed and unified in slumber.
But once the bedside alarm rings,
it’s half past one’s own version
of heaven or hell.
The Summer of South Jersey House Parties
Riding a rabid twist on a blackout boogie down,
it was the summer of South Jersey house parties.
Bong blasts and tequila shots
one too many Long Island Iced Teas
one too many long looks
at someone else’s girlfriend—
the recipe for a fistfight.
beer-bellied, tobacco-chewing Pineys
boozing elbow to elbow
with diner waitresses, divorcees,
ex-cons, slutty ex-cheerleaders
& clean-cut, recent high-school grads like me,
getting our first real taste
of the raw-boned wild side.
Always a muscle car or two
parked on dirt lawns.
Tangled in those backseats:
long, lean girls
pregnant with reckless desires;
black cats stalking their psyches—
sweat-soaked savage lovers
hopped up on black beauties & Black Sabbath,
bone knocking to Sabotage,
every Saturday night,
we of itchy minds and feet,
hearts hurling bricks
through glass walls of inhibitions,
danced gangly limbs akimbo
inside cigarette & water stain-walled shotgun shacks.
Juiced on Jack,
and the DJ’s playlist,
we brushed up against the opposite sex
like sticks rubbing together,
burning the hours away
to Cheap Trick, Blondie, Springsteen.
tasted of Stoli,
in shadowy backyards;
the moon-washed night air
wreathed any wrongdoings
in hibiscus and cricket symphonies.
Our collective exuberance,
synonymous with our fashion sense:
badass bomber jackets;
brightly colored short shorts;
frilly bras stuffed with tissues & socks;
Led Zep T-shirts, sleeves hacked off.
That summer of south Jersey house parties—
some, like me,
would soon go off to college.
to trade school or the military.
The rest remained stuck in town,
drunk and stumbling
from one house party to the next;
dancing to Skynyrd, Stevie Wonder,
Last dance, last chance for love
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