Lost in Los (Angeles)

Marisela Norte

Once, it was like seeing the night for the very first time, only someone dangled black ice cubes in front of my eyes.  Each street, each story melted on a page...

An upholstery shop open past midnight, in the back a fading light bulb persists overhead as the men, they talk about women.  Women at bus stops with slits in their secretarial skirts. Catholic school girls with too much lipstick. Las Nuevas Santitas cuddling school books, teddy bears and suddenly religious boys.

Muchachas Bailando En Bikini! I pass these joints and I must look. Possibly I am searching for those who search for the anonymous body in the pink bathing suit. I hear the trampling of their feet. Men knocking doors down just to get a good look at a pair of fishnet stockings. And for every man laying out the family bills on the bar, there is another one, pale and miserable who simply wishes he wasn't there. And the jukebox still plays “Yo Quiero Una Muchacha Como Tu.”

Laundromats are crowded with bored children who must wait for what seems to be an endless rinse cycle. Babies drink red Kool-Aid out of plastic bottles and chew on nipples that never collapse.

A woman on a bus bench rests against a smiling Credit Dentist as the RTD continues to exhaust her with Nicotine Shock. Doctor X continues to offer EZ payments and a thousand pink receipts.

At the Jack in the Box, the orange vinyl is polished to perfection by a neighborhood kid afraid to lose his first job. There are no customers tonight. I tried to imagine bullet holes in the clean glass.

Women still walk the Boulevard swinging those little blue bags from Lerner's. Cinnamon nylons.  Legs like Josie Rubio.

Radios blast each other on the streets of Los Angeles con Salsa Picante! Sabado Salsa! Y Salsa El Pato tambien! Musica con ambiente y una Cuba Libre! And in some corner of this city, some chavalito sneaks out the screen door to play in the garage. He crawls into an old washing machine, sings himself to sleep, only he never wakes up.

The Calvary Cemetery pretends to be an island too far from my reach. Still, I go with my pile of love letters to read. “Always a bridesmaid. Never a bride.” Inscriptions written by friends and enemies. “Too old to be a poet/too young to be a martyr.”

The Latin Lover, The Secret, The Sweetheart Cafe: Bars. Sorrow and mixed primal excitement lined up against a wall. Tight men with grey chins and skimpy suits, they flex and converge inside their tired skin. Ashen entities too far from the planets and twice removed from any immediate family.

I feel myself spilling
through my fingers
breaking into little
pearls
of Mercury
praying for rain
to soothe

the hot pavement
our souls
some dying lawn
in a Sub-urban postcard

The heart breaks. It breaks like an old woman's arm, it breaks like Mother's China, crashing like a hopeless silver jet, hitting the ground like Hiroshima.

Sir Lonely puts his shades on. His Imperials pierce the moon and so a page from the Puppet Zone falls over the blue night. Baby Loca carries 45's and checks out all the guys. Impalas slide around the corner in dangerous love as three stars hang heavy over the East.