California, once you were 8th largest economy in the world with resort hotels looking west over the Pacific sunset then you turned to an derelict mall at the edge of the Nevada desert, by the L.A. harbor.
California, I stood in the wide fields under the endless wind, California, I saw you flying, I saw you hover, vast, above me.
California, we scribbled in your crowded little classrooms, we believed everything you told us, “See—children—Abraham Lincoln, he studied by candle light in a log cabin somewhere in wild Illinois so you could become anything you ever want to.”
California, where the parents’ dreams and hopes mulched in the soil and the medians, were chopped like bark spread beneath the trees, evaporated like fog on a sun-blasted beach. California. Where parents watched tiny figures and wondered if that was their kids in the distance as the sun set.
California, those were some great, golden times. I heard they turned the old apple processing plant into a shopping center.
California, “Cumulus brilliant against the blue sky, fog blowing through the groves and orchards,” that’s what it said on the gate.
Some cities were labyrinthine marketplaces where animals were flayed alive for your delectation, some cities were mazes of astonishment— barren avenues and boulevards where imagination was reduced to ashes and stubble in the faces of the young. Calif.
Calif. asphalt stench of pavers laying new tarmac for miles first thing on a still cool summer morning, before everything heats up, before the sunlight is crackling, electric… before the kids spill out of the rows of white clapboard houses into the sunshine, yes, Calif.
California, how did we know you’d genocided the Indians in your mind, you’d used the skulls of their children for teacups, in your Victorian shit shirts, in small rooms with velvety black curtains of tradition.
Of course, Calif., the mythologies of La La Land, pioneer days and free enterprise for all turn out to be stitched from human skin, still wet on the inside. Manzanar, Tule Lake, Poston.
Oh Calif., that’s where my dreams and imagination were born, in the blood at the corner of Mickey Mouse’s mouth, in the trickle of saliva or tears slapped into and out of a girl’s face, into and out of a boy’s face, into and out of a dog’s crushed spine, into and out of regular moments on ordinary streets.
California, I was speeding along when I felt the wind through a tunnel in my mind, bitter mountain chill of glacial time exiting through the back of my head as I rushed forward, Calif.
Calif., really you know, some people were so decent, so decently they watched their children crushed, dangling like reddish eucalyptus leaves.
Calif., I admit I just stood and watched to see what you would do— not so pretty, not so pretty, illusions you didn’t even believe. Mist like cigar smoke of war.
Calif., the death penalty you instituted but didn’t believe it, the mass incarceration you enforced but could never reflect on, devastation on all sides you allowed but could never consider, the people, Calif., the people… in their generations… you buried them under freeways and movies that perfected the narrative origins of schlock. Something like movies but was a machine attached en masse via sound.
Calif., the facts and refined kernels you point to over and over hid the truth and nothing but the truth, all the facts just cockroaches scurrying about crates down on the loading docks in the produce yard.
What you love is obvious, Calif. and it’s not you—it’s not you, California—you don’t love your own strange soul.
You look out in the darkness and we see your eyes, California, from the other side. East of Eden, Calif.
All the bodies have been released into space, between the stars, between electrical bonds and fiduciary bonds, between the Americas, California. All the wisps of gas from bodies and mouths, from fissures.
The white people were in the front room eating, California, while we looked out across your face, Calif. And, what did we see besides Chinese food, besides canned spaghetti, besides the U.S. Army, it was you.
You gifted us sweet fragrances of some kind of promise, palmed off the promise of mud and denim, promise of glass and bone. Little stories, snatches that you thought somebody ought to believe, but you didn’t pretend to. —Calif. with earthquakes.
So that’s why I love your bleak Calif. chill to the end of time, to the bottom of the Pacific, rolling at me, at us—someone paid the highest price. Shaking out of their bones. Out of the world.
But then come Monday… Monday everybody gets up to go to work, until the end of this world, Calif., end of this continent, end of this civilization, end of this thought.
California, Jim Morrison is buried in Paris but his dreams were flipped at UCLA and turned on on Sunset Blvd., Ray Foster’s ashes scattered east of the General Sherman sequoia, at Fisherman’s Beach in the Marin Headlands, and under the blood orange in my backyard.
Calif., those tortillas you have been eating have turned you into steel. Under the palm fronds, under the eucalyptus, under the smoggy scrub hills. Tortillas of adobe.
Here I come California, what’re we gonna do now? You know neither of us can ever forget the right way. I hate my dreams are so lame, so stupid, worse than anything you can finagle.
Tingle-ling-a-ling, Calif., let’s get everybody fed, let’s go., Calif., you know that you know. Everything is everything, and we gone. This is where we went—you and me.