Fiction/Poetry

Two Poems by Rich Ferguson

It’s only seconds /before someone pulls a trigger. /Only seconds 
before someone plants the seeds/of a kiss.

Another Day in L.A.

1.

Early morning symphony 
of coffee brewing, babies burbling, 
truck gears grinding, industry wheezing. 
Blackbirds singing, 
barrio bus-stop benches creaking, 
emaciated mop-top rock-star palm trees 
rustling in the breeze. 

Those unheard: 
the sleeping, the dead, 
and stealthy coyotes 
lurking through Los Feliz neighborhoods, 
hunting down 
garbage scraps and stray pets. 

2.

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.

3.

From Hollywood to Hawthorne, 
Watts to Woodland Hills: 
the circling and buzzing of police helicopters. 

Urban birds singing only the blues.

4.

People rushing to jobs, gyms, 
malls and AA meetings. 
Everyone searching for, or escaping: 
demons, death, money, love, salvation. 
Hurry. 
It’s only seconds 
before someone pulls a trigger. 
Only seconds 
before someone plants the seeds 
of a kiss.

5.

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.

6.

Car exhaust, factory pollution, 
byproducts from aerosol cans, 
and wildfire smoke 
crowd out the sky. 
Skull-and-crossbones breathing,
noxious and obnoxious breathing. 
At least some are comforted by the notion 
that all the poisons 
make for beautiful sunsets.

7.

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 
more faithful 
and comforting constellations 
visit the walk-of-fame stars 
on Hollywood Boulevard.

8.

Bars 
that are more like churches, 
streethustlers 
that are more like healers. 
Here, 
lives can be lost and saved 
in many ways.

9.

The dutiful and the damned, 
the famous and freakish. 
Clergy members, 
counterfeiters, 
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 
till cross-eyed;
one too many Long Island Iced Teas
mixed with
one too many long looks
at someone else’s girlfriend—
the recipe for a fistfight.

Those parties:

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;
muscled thugs,
black cats stalking their psyches—
sweat-soaked savage lovers
hopped up on black beauties & Black Sabbath,
bone knocking to Sabotage
windows fogged.

Those parties:

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,
sparking fires—

burning hips,
burning hopes,
burning the hours away
to Cheap Trick, Blondie, Springsteen.

Kisses
tasted of Stoli,
Binaca, Marlboro.

Handjobs, blowjobs,
illicit affairs
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.
Still others:
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,
Donna Summer—

Last dance, last chance for love

________________________________________

To hear and read more of Rich Ferguson’s poetry and spoken word click here






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