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I remember those who stood for peace and fought for peace—when they go their lives stand still like trees.
Don White 1937 – 2008
Michael Zinzun 1949 – 2006
Sixto Tarango 1957 – 1987
Dennis Brutus 1924 – 2009
Chris Hani 1942 – 1993
Iqbal Masih 1983 – 1995
Bob Kaufman 1925 – 1986
Reine Moffett (died 1997)
Where did I put it? Can I get there across the untethered plank? How old are the planks of the rotting walkway, leading up from the dock (with the sunken yacht, bridge black with mold)? How wide is this island? How parenthetical is one last appositive? How is it I feel the shadow cutting silent across the mudflat, cutting across the flat green water? How does the deep opacity of green refract blades of sunglare into my useless old thoughts? How about these nails sticking out? How about the rocks in the mudflats, the moss in the trees? How shall I fall through the next fifteen minutes? How to drop down through the hole rotten in the deck to the pilings underneath, thence to proceed across the rocks, slippery below? How to find out the overgrown trails they had to have used? How about the shiny commercial mixer on the counter of the abandoned kitchen where the roof had fallen in, except on that part, that looked like the kitchen was still in use? How about the bedroom, all motel beige, burnt sienna, olive green, coverlet on the beds made, lamp on the nightstand and everything under thick dust, maritime print on the wall warping? How about algae sliming the opening of the concrete reservoirs? How about the shack at the end of the walkway, looking out on the silent cove (with one dock sunken between rotting pilings, the water deep, deep green, black against the uplifted black rock of the island), shattered glass and shattered white ceramic plates littering the floor? Will it tug at my thinking like gristle, like a ligament, when it comes, the call?
Sonia Sanchez reading auditorium 132 CSULA Industrial Arts Complex Thursday May 14, 7:50 PM, “This is the earth, this is the 21st century, certainly our elders have done a mess, young people need to prepare to take it over, you should be pissed, because it’s the earth, you must step up and say to the 1% who run everything, why do they think they have a right to all of that money, at some point we gotta deal with that—thank you for coming out, to listen to this thing called poetry, I want to thank the people who brought me here, I call on Sandy Smith, Rosa parks, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, June Jordan, Octavia Butler, Toni Cade Bambara, Barbara Deming…”
Sonia Sanchez reads a long list of activist artists and public agitators for social justice, Mike Sonksen sits beside Michael C. Ford, Mike Willard’s on his way home by train (his boy’s school’s open house, open), Doug Kearney down in front holding his hat, Lauri Ramey sips from a water bottle, Enrique Berumen saw me and took five minutes to catch up on ten years, jovial as ever, gave me his card, “it’s been an honor to be on the earth with them,” Sonia Sanchez says, a woman named Karine earlier hugged me earlier (she thought I was someone else), she asked how did it feel to know so many languages, I said I only knew three, and for the first twenty minutes of her reading the dean of students stands at the back of the auditorium looking at his cell phone, then he leaves…
“We closed down Harlem Hospital, because the electrical unions and plumbers unions would not hire blacks and Puerto Ricans, I mean this was already the 1960s, and my father was looking down on us from a building overlooking the street, we had our backs to 135th Street,” Sonia Sanchez says, telling the story of integrating NYC unions through civil disobedience, in part, got her troubled gay brother a job as an electrician (“the phone rang and rang, it was about 3 AM, I knew who it was, ‘Yes, Dad,’ I said when I finally picked it up, ‘What do you want?’ In those days I was not very polite to my dad, and when he finally got through saying what he had to say, I told him, ‘Oh, and tell Wilson to show up tomorrow at 8 AM’ and I told him where, and he said, ‘What for?’ “It’s a job, Dad, what do you think we’re doing this for?'”)—earlier she’d become emotional, tearing up, describing her brother’s troubles before he died of AIDS—then she reads from a book “in their voices” about her family: “I go right to the hospital, and wipe him down with a moist cloth, until he tells me to stop, it hurts…”
Pretty girl with crimson hair at the taco stand
laughing at the taco stand
as I drive by, approximately 35 MPH,
in the heavy traffic of rush hour and war sickness 2015 USA
past Chano’s Burritos and where the Miyamoto family used to live
by Lincoln Park DMV and past a whole life, apparently,
because the pang punches my gut and says, “My girl has that hair!”
but you (like her, crimson-haired girl) have already gone from my sidelong glance
as I remember to pay attention, workers and vehicles merge from the Forever 21 plant,
walking or driving out at day’s end, the afternoon taking it all
in into its lateness. Way to go, crimson-haired girl in late afternoon.
I like your laugh even if it hurts for a second. Just yesterday
my girl sent a selfie smiling via cell phone, standing at the edge
of the continent, on the other side, on the crashing Atlantic,
sea wind blowing on her smile, sea wind blowing
through her black hair
TOMORROW! 11am! JOIN US! Students from Monterey High School have worked hard to write plays based on LA’s own Fantastic poets. As one student wrote: “I’ve personally enjoyed interviewing and writing about our poets. Everyone, young and old, has a story and I enjoyed interpreting their past from my own perspective.”
The hummingbird flew to the top of the Australian coral tree, silhouette of a tiny man. He or she flew around the moon. I stood in the driveway watching the whole time.
Two hummingbirds or three. Silhouettes still in the tree, and they don’t get along. They’re such fighters. One zooms in to attack, the other careens away, disappears in space.
Little dog barks. From the open door, across the street, my neighbor’s making love or something high on our hill, whatever her loud vocalization is about. Sometimes someone walks by.
Iowa’s fields of stubble, frozen under a hard sky. Wyoming’s green summer drainages, cotton drifting off cottonwoods in little towns in the wind. One Chinese tombstone in the graveyard beside the Wyoming State Penitentiary.
Sometimes we hear from people, get some word of hello, something of a message. I look at them like we do a column of smoke.
Hiking to the top of a mountain or at least as far as the high overlook, taking in the wind and the views. Eating lunch, hiking down again. Tonight forty people will stand in the parking lot by Cheo’s taco truck to watch the Pacquiao Mayweather fight.
I sense your presence in the days ahead of this one; but I don’t know who I mean, I suppose it’s just a feeling, some echo of my own being, the interference like a sea wind (“like a sea wind”) of my own noise.