L.A. to LA: Home Sweet Home(s)

I’VE WRITTEN some here about my summer trips to Louisiana  and just how and why New Orleans became part of my yearly ritual as a child.

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The old luggage tag from my mother’s old train case.

It wasn’t, however, until I was fully grown that I understood  just how significantly New Orleans had marked me —  both inside and out. Nor did I realize how much it mattered within my being.

Consequently, in the last few years,  after a very long time away, I have been trying to make up for lost time. An editor and friend of mine had a conversation a couple of years ago that finally (just a few weeks ago) worked its way into an essay.

The piece went live this week on Zòcalo Public Square. You can read the piece here.

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One of the first streets my early forebears lived on in New Orleans

Weekend Walks Along Wilshire Boulevard 


A DEEPLY involving and bittersweet presentation at #LAPL’s Central Library on Saturday afternoon. Annie Laskey and her mother Marlene hatched a plan to walk the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard from its downtown high-rises and mid-town department stores to the edges of the sea. Annie mentioned that the thrill at first was less about the walk and more about getting to operate the Minolta SLR. Annie shot and Marlene made note (see the notebook in the grid below). While Marlene and many of the iconic locations that the Laskeys recorded are no longer with us, the absences were filled with vivid stories. Grateful for the Laskeys and their. sticktoitiveness Hundreds of sites have now been preserved on Kodachrome slides. The Wilshire Boulevard — the Carnation Building, Mutual of Omaha, Ambassador Hotel– that still exists in my head flickered to life with her stories. You can glimpse 100 of those images in a new book, “The Wilshire Slides 1978–1979” put out through LAPL’s Photo Collection and Photo Friends the nonprofit organization formed to support & promote the collection.

One hundred years ago today

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Gwendolyn Brooks Image via university of illinois

Elegy For Miss Brooks
i.m Gwendolyn Brooks 1917-2000

“There’s nothing left
to say. You have done
your dance away —
to the place we never thought
would gather you

though somewhere we knew
how days grow shorn. Unbrittle,
brave, graceful yet laceless,
you struck the stone till you were
the stone, or the face

each dark rock hides, if only
from itself, somethin else. The water
wears over us —
headed home salt-ward.
We wade in your wake

& pray. Forever
bendable, you never did stoop
whenever sidewalks hard heart
met your dandelion wild.
You fought that white

head though.
A thankful while, the wind
our way blew.
Without you, we might not know
what wind must do

it too refuses to remain
unseen, keeps many names
Gust, bluster, hurricane
Bronzeville’s heavy Hawk
You swirl and save us

from standing still
unsailed. What the devil
are we without you?
I tuck your voice laced
tight, in these brown shoes”

— Kevin Young

(happy 100th gwendolyn brooks)

Shifting Tenses

AND THE NEWS keeps coming today —

I’ve been trying to get all the blogs caught up with upcoming projects. It’s been a bit of a logjam lately around here and so I hope to be getting back to some regular posting.

I’m happy to announce my new (and very first!) chapbook, “Shifting Tenses”  from the wonderful Writ Large Press, Founded in 2007 by Chiwan Choi, Peter Woods,  Judeth Oden Choi and Jessica Ceballos, the press’ mandate has been to publish, connect  and promote overlooked voices and communities across the region and beyond.  A limited number of copies will be available today at L.A. Zine Fest in downtown Los Angeles. 100% of the proceeds go to nonprofit/social justice organizations. 

If you’re not able to make it downtown,  you can still order it directly from Writ Large by clicking over  here.

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Voice (30)

Westside

“West Side” — image by Lynell George

Grocery on Venice Beach
by Denis Johnson 

Thank you salesperson I see your heart

quivering redly in its gossamer

I with this fiery  whirling atomic

symbol where I used to have a stomach

lighting my dead shoes

down the aisle

Briefly the gauzy but legible

future veils the place and is beheld

I can talk inside the mind

of my great-grandchild Oh unconceived

monster hurting your teeth on our dead Disneylands

we were here we touched this radioactive food

We didn’t have the claws and then something in our hearts sufficed

We didn’t have X-ray eyes we knew what was inside of everything

Descendants

I have paid and I have left

walked out of the little store onto a white beach

the light declining and lavender

walked past two women

as they knelt covered with gooseflesh

beside the Tarot dealer

past a man pretending to be a machine in a circle

of laughter

alongside but not too close

to people who no longer

live indoors or hide their thoughts

past the child

born in a towaway zone

the mother’s eyes like

a creek

numbers

and curses going by in the water

I leave you this record

of an invisible monstrosity and this

report of sadness

a semi-truck against the bruised roses

of sunset

emeralds in the velvet wound

the lights

of Malibu the cold

small lights

from –The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly — Poems Collected and New

Denis Johnson, 67