California

I’m currently traveling through California, so I thought I’d share this poem I wrote after last summer’s California trip.

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I flew away from the Pacific
over the desert
toward Las Vegas.
The mountains, valleys, towns were
brown and brown and brown.
I thought about that morning

When I had driven my little rental down highway 1
from Ventura to Malibu,
stopping at four beaches
because I kept forgetting what it felt like
to be standing in the sand
letting the waves soak the bottom of my pant legs.

The day before that I was on a bus full of Mexicans
from Bakersfield to LA.
I stared out my window as the dusty valley
turned into dusty mountains
turned into dusty Los Angeles.
So I shook the dust and drove alone to the ocean
just in time to watch the sunset with him.

Cambria was before that, with its tide pools,
rocky shorelines, elephant seals.
My sister and I climbed barefoot up a cliff.
We stumbled across the stone beaches
until there was no one left on earth but us.
At the end of the world we collected sea glass,
gave names to the hermit crabs we let crawl across our arms,
then braided purple flowers into our hair.

When I was bundled in a sweater, sitting on a stone ledge,
shivering in the ocean mist
I forgot that somewhere behind me the desert still existed
with its zombies living in casinos,
migrant workers harvesting grapes and dropping dead in the heat,
a 30 foot cut out of James Dean pointing at a Texaco,
all covered with dust.

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