“Green Felt Pants” by Alejandro Escudé

Alejandro Escudé

GREEN FELT PANTS

Just beyond the entrance to Knott’s Berry Farm
where hundreds congregate to plan what rides to ride
what shows to catch is a group of mentally challenged young people,
most rolled in on wheelchairs, one of them screaming as his caregiver,
a Native American man with the large-eyed face of a saint,
strokes the screamer’s hair and lathers sunscreen on him and holds his hands
and speaks to him in his ear, the screamer could be as young as eighteen
or old as twenty-eight I can’t tell though there’s another intellectually disabled man
standing patiently as the others get ready who is wearing high-cropped green felt pants
and a tidy yellow polo shirt; he appears calm though a little perplexed
and he is strange standing there with his feet perfectly together,
hands in his pockets, waiting for the others in wheelchairs and their caretakers,
the head caregiver a Latin woman clutching a pink cellphone and decidedly in charge
of this group I’m watching who will not yet commit to move further into the park
and I am waiting for my wife and children to finish the line and a ride
on this very crowded day so now I’m feeling a little disturbed watching
those who will need care forever, those that will never have children or a job or a spouse,
who will never even have the satisfaction, as I’ve recently had, of quitting a job
that was much too stressful to find myself at this amusement park
which could serve as a stand-in for life itself, the complex absurdity of it all,
watching these disabled individuals make the most of it
as the one who screams continues to recite his piercing scream,
something between a wolf and small child a wolf-child,
as his beautiful saint-friend rubs his face and leans over
to say something to him I’ll never know and will never have to know.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Alejandro Escudé: “I moved to Los Angeles when I was six years old. Rather, I was brought here by my parents from Argentina. My first memory is Venice Beach. I was scared. As a little kid, I thought the people looked weird and frightening. And they were! But I love Los Angeles. I love it the way tourists love it, which is to say palm trees and movie stars, and I love it the way locals love it, which is to say palm trees and movie stars. And sunsets! Can’t forget about those sunsets.” (website)

“L.A. River” by Jack Cooper

Jack Cooper

L.A. RIVER

I like how the mallard ducklings
goofy and weak
waddle up the cement incline
then slide into this runoff
of lawn sprinklers and car washes
and how the great blue heron
seems to be teleported here
from the Jurassic
to look for extinct species of fish
but mostly I like the way
the little birds
fly in and out of the barbed wire
with only a smear of water
to keep them singing

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

[download audio]

__________

Jack Cooper: “As one soul in this city, I am moved by its stories and driven by its fury. I am an Angeleno poet not because I live here but because I suffer L.A.’s sadness and celebrate its accomplishments, because I struggle to find who I am, what is mine and where I belong in this city of angels and devils and aliens, real and imagined, in this city, like every city, where life is as much a shared experience as it is our very own. Poetry helps.” (website)

“From the Big Book of Games for Girls” by Brendan Constantine

Brendan Constantine

FROM THE BIG BOOK OF GAMES FOR GIRLS

Place your head in the split
of doll’s house, so you can look
out a window like a doll.

Tell yourself a child is coming,
one who loves you, who will
move you, give you her voice.

Wait for her. While you wait
try to read more from this book.
It won’t fit in the house.

You must leave, get heavily
to your feet and rub your chin.
Now you’re the girl.

Look in the windows, pull
the house apart; the doll is gone.
Go, check the neighborhood.

It’s awful outside: bright grit,
the weight of shine, your face
held down like a doorbell.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Brendan Constantine: “I have to say, I get a lot of inspiration from just going out and pretending I’ve never been to this planet before. It’s a great way to remember just how absurd, strange, beautiful, and unlikely everything is around you. If I can stay in that childish frame of mind, in that place of possibility where you watch somebody get into an elevator, the doors close, then open again and five people come out and it occurs to you “That’s where you go to become five people!” Or you cut your hair and more grows out and you cut your hair and more grows out and you deduce, “The human head must be packed with hair.” If I can practice daily astonishment, I find that I’m a little more pleasant, patient, and forgiving. You never know what you’re going to hear outside your window. Sometimes it brings a whole world with it.” Note: This quote is an excerpt from Constantine’s 20-page conversation in this issue. (website)

“Red Sugar Blue Smoke” by Brendan Constantine

Brendan Constantine

RED SUGAR BLUE SMOKE

My power animal is prehistoric, so far
undiscovered. I wait for its bones
to be found. I’m not hopeful;
it was drawn to bright lights
and may have stood directly under the meteor,
blue head cocked like a microphone. I have
twenty-eight teeth and can’t decide
if I’m a predator. I once killed a story
with tiny cuts, then buried it
under a tree. The guilt fed and sheltered me
for half a winter. My new landlady
is an astrologer/real-estate-agent who
refuses to say if my home can be trusted
with secrets. Her favorite nail polish is
a shade of dark red called ‘Girl Against
The Whole Damn World.’ I wonder
what color says, I left my drink
next to an identical one and now I can’t tell
which is mine? Tomorrow is a blue vein
in the back of your hand. This isn’t a figure
of speech but a fact of nature, like ink. Tomorrow is
also a powerful animal with undetermined markings.
Indeed it’s probably camouflaged somewhere
nearby. All we know for sure is it will be
eight letters long, the last resembling
a pair of fangs.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

__________

Brendan Constantine: “I have to say, I get a lot of inspiration from just going out and pretending I’ve never been to this planet before. It’s a great way to remember just how absurd, strange, beautiful, and unlikely everything is around you. If I can stay in that childish frame of mind, in that place of possibility where you watch somebody get into an elevator, the doors close, then open again and five people come out and it occurs to you “That’s where you go to become five people!” Or you cut your hair and more grows out and you cut your hair and more grows out and you deduce, “The human head must be packed with hair.” If I can practice daily astonishment, I find that I’m a little more pleasant, patient, and forgiving. You never know what you’re going to hear outside your window. Sometimes it brings a whole world with it.” Note: This quote is an excerpt from Constantine’s 20-page conversation in this issue. (website)

“To the Frustrated Mother in Starbucks with Her Three-Year-Old Son” by Chanel Brenner

Chanel Brenner

TO THE FRUSTRATED MOTHER IN STARBUCKS WITH HER THREE-YEAR-OLD SON

Don’t worry, this will end.

One day, he will stop hitting you
when he’s mad, his hands swatting
at your face like a short-circuited robot.
One day, he will stop throwing himself
on the pale cement
and thrashing his head like a punk rocker
when you tell him, No.
Someday, he will even stop running out the door
every time he sees a pigeon
bobbing its mangy head down the sidewalk,
leaving you to spill your coffee
and chase after him down the street,
grabbing his shirt
just before he steps
into moving traffic.
You probably won’t notice that he’s stopped.
You’ll be too busy helping him trace
his upper-case letters,
playing game after game of Roshambo,
and listening to his knock-knock jokes.
You’ll be too busy answering his questions,
Mommy, Can I tell you something?
Mommy, Can I have gummy bears?
Mommy, Who was the first person on earth?
You probably won’t remember
how you thought that it would be easier
when he turned three, but it wasn’t.
Why do they call it the terrible twos?
You probably won’t remember
until you see another mother struggling
with her three-year-old son,
her jaw tense, her hand clutching
his arm too tight as he grabs
her splintering blonde hair in his
freakishly strong fist
and pulls. Then you will remember
how you wanted to escape
and how you felt like it would never end.
By then, your son will be standing still
in line beside you, ordering an Iced Caramel Macchiato
his large hands hanging at his sides.
Only now you will remember
him small in your lap,
his hand tight around your finger,
the other one pointing at a balloon,
Mommy, Boom!

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos

[download audio]

__________

Chanel Brenner: “When my older son, Riley, died at age six from a brain AVM hemorrhage, writing poetry and the support of the Los Angeles Poets and Writers Collective helped me survive. I am lucky to live in L.A. among so many brilliant and openhearted poets. Last 4th of July at a parade, I saw a mom and her three-year-old son who reminded me of what it was like when Riley was three. This poem came out of wanting to reach out to her and other mothers about that turbulent age and the unwanted feelings that can surface.” (website)