Point of Reference


There it is — again.




by Elizabeth Alexander

It wasn’t as deep as I expected,
your grave, next to the grandmother who died
when I was three. I threw a flower in
and fizzled off the scene like carbonation.
My body of course remained but all else
was a cluster of tiny white bubbles
floating up, up, up, to an unseen top.

I wore your vicuna coat and an ill-
fitting cloche from Alexander’s. I walked
among the rows, away from the men
covering the coffin, which was when I saw
“X,” Malcolm, a few yards down, “Paul Robeson,”
then “Judy Garland,” then—the car was waiting
and we had to go.

The cocktail parties
must be something there! You’d discuss self-help
and the relative merits of Garvey-
ism with Malcolm. Robeson would read
in a corner. Judy, divine in black
clam diggers, would throw back her head
and guffaw, smoke as many cigarettes
as she wanted.

Before you died I dreamed
of cocktail parties in your Harlem
apartment where you’d bring all our dead kin
back to life, for me! I was old enough
to drink with you, to wear a cocktail dress.
Like the best movies, the dream was black
and white, except for my grandmother’s
lipstick, which was red.

via The Paris Review

(In Memoriam)

(image by LG)

Voice (18)


My Mother tells me she dreamed
of John Coltrane, a young Trane
playing his music with such joy
and contained energy and rage
she could not hold back her tears.
And sitting awake now, her hands
crossed in her lap, the tears start
in her blind eyes. The TV set
behind her is gray, expressionless.
It is late, the neighbors quiet,
even the city-Los Angeles-quiet.
I have driven for hours down 99,
over the Grapevine into heaven
to be here. I place my left hand
on her shoulder, and she smiles.
What a world, a mother and son
finding solace in California
just where we were told it would
be, among the palm trees and all-
night super markets pushing orange
back-lighted oranges at 2AM
“He was alone”, she says, and does
not say, just as I am, “soloing.”
What a world, a great man half
her age comes to my Mother
in sleep to give her the gift
of song, which-shaking the tears
away-she passes on to me, for now
I can hear the music of the world
in the silence and that word:
soloing. What a world-when I
arrived the great bowl of mountains
was hidden in a cloud of exhaust,
the sea spread out like a carpet
of oil, the roses I had brought
from Fresno browned on the seat
beside me, and I could have
turned back and lost the music.

— Philip Levine
image via poetryfoundation.org

Thanks so much, MN, for sharing this.

Gratuitous Jacaranda

IT’S SPRING here — finally — in the Northeast corner of the region. Spring in L.A. is something subtle: It’s a shift in the light and the air, the color of the sun. But the sight of the jacarandas and the albeit brief canopies of lavender color they create on busy thoroughfares give spring in L.A. a little power pop.

Even the artists are out with their easels — I’ll try to get a shot of that…but the cloudy days have changed the light some.




Good Morning, Chinatown

I HAVE to say, I like it empty and lonesome.


The monks below were gathered, talking and smoking, until a man, very agitated — screaming, punching air –stomped by. It left them in silence for a long interval. I had hoped to get a shot of them in their much more animated state — but that moment was gone.

Life in the city even in the calm of the morning.