“People Leave L.A. at a Record Pace
as Others Arrive with Hopes and Dreams”
In the parking lot of a truck stop
a story about someone going
on a journey meets
a story about a stranger
coming to town.
“What’s it like down there?”
a blonde asks pointing west.
“The air’s like arsenic,” says
the handsome stranger.
Love is Strange
A hundred of my closest friends and I are working
on Earth Day. Shopping carts, Big Gulp cups,
tons of plastic, more than one mattress.
I’ve got graffiti duty. Gloves, safety glasses,
TSP in a five-gallon bucket.
All over the walls of the L.A. River :
MICKEY LOVES SYLVIA.
“Love is Strange” plays in my head,
the great Mickey & Sylvia hit from the 50s.
Come here, lover boy.
They’re gone now, but this new kid has stepped
up to tell the world
about spray can love, clean sheets love, blast
furnace love under a swollen moon.
Mickey out here at night. Scrawling a valentine
Sylvia can’t help but see on her way to school.
No matter how hard I scrub, the letters show
a little. They’ll be here after Sylvia graduates,
after Mickey goes in the Army or doesn’t.
After they forget each other and a couple
in a red canoe enjoy the refurbished river,
him with a paddle, her thinking of last night,
one hand trailing in the cool water.
from The Secret Diaries of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Christmas eve 1817. I wonder about my father.
How big a fool have I been? I rarely feel well
and Percy is relentless. There are bats every night.
I am twenty years old and not unattractive.
An infant, the prospect of which frightened us both,
is buried in England. Percy sports about
with Claire Clairmont. Her name sticks in my throat.
Thomas Jefferson Hogg is attentive and relieves
my depression a little. His name disgusts me. I forgive
Percy. I do not want to be with me, either.
Byron limps about spouting poetry. The rain
is unrelenting. Everybody smells. Ghost stories
at night and in the morning Lake Geneva smooth
as a child’s forehead. Tonight Percy wants a sonnet
competition. Claire claps her hands like a ninny
in a book about ninnies. Horace Smith will compete
with Shelley. A gnat meets an eagle. A damp match
and a bolt of lightning. I am ordered to bring
paper and quills and plenty of wine. I am wary
of telling Percy my dream. He’s a poacher and a thief.
I fetch and carry. I bend low enough for the Hogg
to see more of my breasts. There in the fire
is a scene from my novel: terrified peasants
brandishing torches, a castle in flames.