“Oscar” by Mari Werner

Mari Werner

OSCAR

My answering machine received a call from a machine that said it had an important message for Oscar Rivera. It told my machine it should hang up if it wasn’t Oscar. My machine just sat there and kept recording. Didn’t seem to even consider hanging up. Then the calling machine said that by staying on the line my machine was confirming that it was Oscar Rivera. My machine still didn’t flinch.

Now I’m wondering if maybe it really is Oscar Rivera. I never asked it if it had a name or offered to give it one, but now I think of it, the name kind of suits it.

The calling machine seemed to think that Oscar Rivera owed it money though, and I’m pretty sure my answering machine doesn’t owe anyone any money. But then again, I have no idea what sort of life it may have led before I brought it into my home. The people I ordered it from said it was brand new, but how would I actually know if they were telling the truth.

But then I thought maybe it doesn’t really matter. So what if Oscar has a past? Don’t we all? I told it, “Oscar, don’t worry about it. You’re here, the past is past, and I wouldn’t even think about ratting you out. And besides, it’s nice to know your name.”

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Mari Werner: “I came to the L.A. area in 1976 when I was 24. I wasn’t planning to stay, but I grew roots and did. I write poetry because of the way it can make a connection between one human and another. And because it helps me stay convinced there’s meaning in all this—or at least be able to laugh when there seems to be none.” (website)

“Ice” by Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb

ICE

was Granny Clark’s cure for all ills.
Ice for a banged forehead or skinned knee.
Ice for headache, sniffles, fever. Ice
for chills. For bruised feelings, a drink

from the icebox, as she still called it.
In the old days, she explained,
people chopped ice from lakes in winter,
and stored it in ice-houses underground.

Twice a week, the ice-man brought—
swinging from tongs—a sweating
block, and plopped it in the box.
She’d hoped to be an ice-girl, then.

Now—kids grown, husband fled to a bank-
teller with frosted hair—she rocks
on her porch, and sips iced tea, and thinks
how Eskimos would feed

an old, sick Grandma special herbs.
“Thank you for spending time
with us. Return in a nice new body soon,”
they’d croon, entrusting her to ice.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Charles Harper Webb: “I consider myself an L.A. poet for the very prosaic reason that I’ve lived in and around L.A. for more than half of my life. As a long-time professor of English and creative writing at Cal State Long Beach, I’ve helped to turn a number of fine poets loose on the world, and am pleased to take part myself in the local literary scene. As the editor of Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology, and two earlier Stand Up anthologies, I helped to define and call attention to an entertaining, reader-friendly style of poetry that grew up in L.A., and still flourishes here. I’ve lived in L.A. for so long that my poems are full of it (L.A.—not, I hope, that other ‘it’). But even more than L.A. imagery, many of my poems have, I think, an L.A. sensibility: casual, performable, leavened with humor. As critic Wilhelm Blogun quipped at a party, ‘As poets go, you’re a Schopenhauer in duck’s clothing.’ How L.A. can you get?”

“The New Humility” by Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb

THE NEW HUMILITY

So the last will be first, and the first last.
—Matthew 20:16

At first, jockeys rein their horses in.
Then they make them stand still
at the gun. When everyone does that,

they back up—at a walk, first; then, a run.
Workers try to earn the least, drive
the worst car, and dive deepest into debt.

Fashionistas vie to wear the shabbiest
clothes: coarse fabric, bad fit, full of holes.
When those holes get so big the clothes fall

off, people compete for Worst Body—
fattest, flabbiest, skinniest, most
malformed. People wear sores as kings once

wore jewels, until the point is reached
where hideous is beautiful. Then the trend
must be reversed—the fewer blebs,

fat-rolls, scars, humped backs, the better.
Football teams have lost so many yards,
points-given-up seem like points gained.

Horses lose more gloriously by running—
faced forward, all-out—in the wrong direction.
People forget they ever ran a different way.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Charles Harper Webb: “I consider myself an L.A. poet for the very prosaic reason that I’ve lived in and around L.A. for more than half of my life. As a long-time professor of English and creative writing at Cal State Long Beach, I’ve helped to turn a number of fine poets loose on the world, and am pleased to take part myself in the local literary scene. As the editor of Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology, and two earlier Stand Up anthologies, I helped to define and call attention to an entertaining, reader-friendly style of poetry that grew up in L.A., and still flourishes here. I’ve lived in L.A. for so long that my poems are full of it (L.A.—not, I hope, that other ‘it’). But even more than L.A. imagery, many of my poems have, I think, an L.A. sensibility: casual, performable, leavened with humor. As critic Wilhelm Blogun quipped at a party, ‘As poets go, you’re a Schopenhauer in duck’s clothing.’ How L.A. can you get?”

“I Wish I’d Seen My Nisei Father Dance” by Amy Uyematsu

Amy Uyematsu

I WISH I’D SEEN MY NISEI FATHER DANCE

Before the war nisei were so much cooler
than we sansei kids give them credit—
after all they could listen to Meiji-farmer folk songs
and siblings practicing violin and shamisen
while finger-snapping to Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman,
and Old Blue Eyes on the radio.

Dad swears the girls were prettier in his day—
he drove a tan convertible, thanks to a father
who got rich selling flowers in the ’30s,
with extra pocket money that got him
into trouble with poorer yogore,
his Boyle Heights friends protecting him.

I’ve been told my father was popular
among the girls—not for his looks,
but because he could really dance—
the swing, fox trot, a mean jitterbug.
Was he ever called a “jive-bomber”
or “cloud-walker” for his nimble feet?

Dad was going to school in Chicago
when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor
and within 24 hours, the FBI
was escorting him
from the college dormitory
to a train back to California.

Lucky for him, he didn’t stay long
in Manzanar with his family.
He worked potato farms in Idaho,
got into college in Lincoln, Nebraska,
met my 19-year-old mom, prettier
than any girl he’d ever danced with.

And after the war nothing could
stop the nisei from still having their dances—
not new babies and bills, neighborhoods
that wouldn’t let them move in. I’ve seen
the photos, Dad and Mom all decked out
in wide lapel suit and full-skirted dress.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Amy Uyematsu: “My grandparents settled in Los Angeles between 1910 and 1920, and I was a post-World War II baby boomer—so I’ve seen this city go through many transformations. One thing that hasn’t changed is the Pasadena Freeway, with its small, curving lanes and beautiful mountain backdrop. When I was a high school senior, I got to drive that freeway from Sierra Madre to downtown L.A. for Saturday night dances with several hundred sansei (3rd-generation Japanese Americans). You could say I learned how to drive on that freeway.”

“The Curious Adoptee” by Lynne Thompson

Lynne Thompson

THE CURIOUS ADOPTEE

I’d like to find her.
Compare notes.

Which of us got lucky?
I’d like to know

why? My parents
could have been

hers but something
fell through—as in

the rabbit hole,
as in next in line?

step up to somebody’s
game or the funny papers.

Or, nothing fell.
God just said

“oops.” He’s only
God, after all.

When it was said
& done, I was in

so she was out;
out of luck

or lucky?

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Lynne Thompson: “I was born and raised and have lived most of my life in Los Angeles. I write poems that reflect the history of the city—what is discarded and what is kept and why. When the answers elude (as they always do), I write other poems that reflect the questions that haunt me—where I’ve come from, where I’m going, what I’ve lost along the way. When the answers elude, the ocean always consoles.”