Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Love Poem to Los Angeles"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Los Angeles, the City of Angels, has been on my mind of late, primarily, no doubt, because I have been watching the series "Bosch" on Amazon Prime.   "Bosch" is a police procedural set in modern day Hollywood area of Los Angeles and based on the novels of Michael Connelly.  In the series, Harry Bosch is a police detective who lives better than the average cop thanks to money he earned by selling some of his personal experiences to a movie studio, but his daily existence still centers on fighting crime on the sinister streets of Hollywood.   Bosch is a tough cop who fears little, is quick to break any rule that gets in his way, and loves the ladies - and the glitter and grime of Los Angeles surrounds and smothers his life like the syrup that he stylistically pours under his pancakes.

The news this morning is also, in a sense, about Los Angeles.  The new film, La La Land, a retro-fitted musical set in Los Angeles, won a record seven awards at last night's Golden Globes, and the movie industry, as well as the general public, is busy chattering about the movie today - and La La Land is Los Angeles.

All of which brings me to today's poetry selection, a poem entitled "Love Poem to Los Angeles" that was written just last year by the current Poet Laureate of Los Angeles - so named by Mayor Eric Garcetti - the very talented Luis J. Rodriguez.  I had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Mr. Rodriguez at a conference in Phoenix several years ago, and I am a great admirer of his poetry - some of which has previously appeared in this blog.

Please enjoy the poet's words from the heart.

Love Poem to Los Angeles
by Luis J. Rodriguez

(with a respectful nod to Jack Hirschmon)

To say I love Los Angeles is to say
I love its shadows and nightlights,
its meandering streets,
the stretch of sunset-colored beaches.
It’s to say I love the squawking wild parrots,
the palm trees that fail to topple in robust winds,
that within a half hour of L.A.’s center
you can cavort in snow, deserts, mountains, beaches.
This is a multi-layered city,
unceremoniously built on hills,
valleys, ravines.
Flying into Burbank airport in the day,
you observe gradations of trees and earth.
A “city” seems to be an afterthought,
skyscrapers popping up from the greenery,
guarded by the mighty San Gabriels. 
Layers of history reach deep,
run red, scarring the soul of the city,
a land where Chinese were lynched,
Mexican resistance fighters hounded,
workers and immigrants exploited,
Japanese removed to concentration camps,
blacks forced from farmlands in the South,
then segregated, diminished.
Here also are blessed native lands,
where first peoples like the Tataviam and Tongva
bonded with nature’s gifts;
people of peace, deep stature, loving hands.
Yet for all my love
I also abhor the “poison” time,
starting with Spanish settlers, the Missions,
where 80 percent of natives
who lived and worked in them died,
to the ruthless murder of Indians
during and after the Gold Rush,
the worst slaughter of tribes in the country.
From all manner of uprisings,
a city of acceptance began to emerge.
This is “riot city” after all—
more civil disturbances in Los Angeles
in the past hundred years
than any other city. 
To truly love L.A. you have to see it
with different eyes,
askew perhaps,
beyond the fantasy-induced Hollywood spectacles.
“El Lay” is also known
for the most violent street gangs,
the largest Skid Row,
the greatest number of poor.
Yet I loved L.A.
even during heroin-induced nods
or running down rain-soaked alleys or getting shot at.
Even when I slept in abandoned cars,
alongside the “concrete” river,
and during all-night movie showings
in downtown Art Deco theaters.
The city beckoned as I tried to escape
the prison-like grip of its shallowness,
sun-soaked image, suburban quiet,
all disarming,
hiding the murderous heart
that can beat at its center.
L.A. is also lovers’ embraces,
the most magnificent lies,
the largest commercial ports,
graveyard shifts,
poetry readings,
lowriding culture,
a sound that hybridized
black, Mexican, as well as Asian
and white migrant cultures.
You wouldn’t have musicians like
Ritchie Valens, The Doors, War,
Los Lobos, Charles Wright &
the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band,
Hiroshima, Motley Crue, NWA, or Quetzal
without Los Angeles.
Or John Fante, Chester Himes, Charles Bukowski,
Marisela Norte, and Wanda Coleman as its jester poets. 
I love L.A., I can’t forget its smells,
I love to make love in L.A.,
it’s a great city, a city without a handle,
the world’s most mixed metropolis,
of intolerance and divisions,
how I love it, how I hate it,
Zootsuit “riots,”
can’t stay away,
city of hungers, city of angers,
Ruben Salazar, Rodney King,
I’d like to kick its face in,
bone city, dried blood on walls,
wildfires, taunting dove wails,
car fumes and oil derricks,
water thievery,
with every industry possible
and still a “one-industry town,”
lined by those majestic palm trees
and like its people
with solid roots, supple trunks,

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