Class. In L.A., #172 (click title for the inspiration for this)

The morning haze is not
the dew rising off the lake,
nor the slumbering
huddled clouds not yet lifted up.

And so, it carries none
of the refreshing charm
or deep breath
cleanliness we left.

But in my blurry-eyed morning’s
half-asleep stupor
when I flop onto the porch
in a tee and pajamas,

it could be the mountains,
the breath of the river.
So I breathe deep. The tang
is a chimney and cigarettes.

Only after minutes of coughing,
asthma like a vice,
do I realize the neighbors,
Armanis and Beemers,

are passing by with their bottom lips
jut out
and their eyes
turned away from this commoner.

They’re muttering
on cell phones with the office,
looking up just long enough
to twist their necks back.

The mumbling adjusts.
And soon our side street is empty
but for the inexhaustible airlines
passing overhead.

On the sidewalk, beside
the perfect hydrangeas,
calculating gardeners
can’t prevent a line of ants

from marching along the cracks
and into the hills
manufactured beneath
their masterpieces.

A whole network exists
beneath the textured skin
stretched and pulled and grafted
over the desert sand,

watered to keep,
down-to-earth, the dust
of the aging, struggling not to age,
celebrities and paparazzi.

No, I am not the gardner
and nor the plumber.
I will still be here when you return
from your luncheon.

Not all the ants fit
on the call sheet you’ve assembled,
that you’ve asked
your assistant to keep handy.

For some of us there aren’t
always parts to be had,
and when your typecasting fails,
I ask you to be an individual.

But the 405 is full,
and by the make of a car and cock
of the head it’s too easy
to pass me and keep going.

The Hudson is calling, rolling
around back east.
And though I remember
it’s crass, workmanlike and polluted,

I remember too it’s shining.
Glinting the sunlight at an angle
nothing this far west, this falsely polished,
could hope to catch.

As the spotlight moves overhead,
I spend the day
like a nanny, talking to the kids,
catching up and cleaning

after the unaffected,
the next generation who
may just grow up to be like you.
But, not if I can help it.

The ants are still out there,
working in the unchanging sun.
Now that you’re gone
they’re brazen and unafraid, marching

down the center of the sidewalk,
bundles and rivets
in hand, choking
on this noxious excuse for air.

The planes rumble overhead,
the ivy in the backyard calls.
What we hide back there,
I just as soon forget.

My kingdom, oasis in the oasis,
the center of the day,
when all your turned up noses
have waned.

But now the sun is collapsing
at my feet, asking for snacks,
asking for a movie,
asking for a ride to the shops,

wondering when mom
will be home, wondering what to do
if mom doesn’t come home soon,
shining in the window.

This street is just a street,
and the folks are just ants,
the 405 is constantly clogged.
The air is constantly clogged.

The respite in the middle of the day
is punctuated
by the planes passing overhead,
burning off fuel.

Here is my lament
and my sadness, my adoration
of what we can create,
what nature we can hold back

if we hold not a scrap
of our humanity, our link
to the blotted out sun
and each other, and the ants.

The day is waning, and I can hear
the business folk,
the semi-successful ones anyway,
making their way home and wonder

if they collapse
on their couch upon entering,
if they breathe a sigh of relief
at not having to be on.

Worse, if they leave the carport
and before passing
under the awning, have to straighten
their skirts and their ties

and flash a false smile they had let loose
on the drive home,
if they must be on now,
all through the night.

The ants are a fine breed,
beneath our sullen street,
they spent the day networking,
making it easier

for others to deliver goods.
The planes overhead
can see the patterns
of our street, the curves.

When you arrived home
they were scared back into the lair
they spent the day creating.
The ants get out of your way.

I, on the other hand,
harbor no such illusions. Still
I stand on the porch waving,
half laughing at my tormenting.

Back east the Hudson
did nothing, flowed its whys
past the egg, past Cheviot, down
under the Tappen-Zee

until it picked up steam
by Riverside Drive and down
into the calm causeway
of the bay, out to sea.

The evening breeze
is a desert’s gift, a cooling off
in an absence of clouds.
Sure, this town holds back its stars,

keeps them trapped
beneath a gauze
of exhaust. The rest,
simply pay up, and look on.

Some suggest if you’re not a place,
you should leave,
find somewhere you fit.
Like the ants, I’ll stay, keep at it.



A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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