Those Poets Who Write About Loss
don't tell the whole story,
how all night in your sleep—half
sleep—you throw your net out
towards that place it was last seen,
Loss-Thing. It drags
the parched ground, comes home
with nada, which you must add
to your larder, Nil Queen: nothing on
nothing, a haunting.
If only you could capture two fish, two
silvery slippers to try on for size,
then walk away across water,
start clean. All night you cast,
and its fall, threadbare, makes
a song on the empty air—
the starry net of your wanting.
Why I Am Not the Los Angeles River
“I am the L.A. River!”
- Assorted performance artists in
1980s on-site presentation
I don’t trail for miles under
cement and steel-girder bridges as a spindly
brook, then sweep out to spread an inch
of melted snow and smoky run-off
across a concrete floor the width of several lanes.
I’m not the L.A. River.
No sandpipers high-step across me,
wetting their ankles. No kingfisher raises
its wings over my stilled inlets to study its shadow—
though I did once hold a macaw on my wrist.
And once, late night, in that Vermont Avenue tenement,
something scampered over my face—so
I woke, so I resolved to stop feeding
the mice, to stop setting out Rice Chex and tiny
cream cheese hors’ oeuvres on the kitchen floor.
But egrets don’t trace me, skimming their feet
on my surface. I’m not the L.A. River.
It goes its way, I mine. Sometimes we cross—
me above, on the thoroughfare, fiddling
for a tolerable station, delayed, grumbling,
running behind, and the river below, running
exactly on time. We’re both 24/7. We’re not afraid
of bleached daylight, or neon-slicked dark.
Each from our source, we came here
by hook and by crook, by turns—we rolled
into town. Rain-filled, that river drowns people.
Rain-swept, I’m not harmless either.
This city’s got something on us, and we’ve got
something on it—but River keeps mum,
like now, lets me do the talking.
Still, that’s not me out there, floating skins of plastic
beneath the rufflings of low-flying birds.
Let’s stop all this gossip, mad rumors,
shadowed insinuations. I am not the L.A. River.