RAIN IN L.A.
This is a dialogue town,
hard-boiled repartee in a soft-boiled climate.
The mountains wisecrack to the desert,
while the Santa Anas, the red winds,
wring their raspy hands, snivel and sweat
like Peter Lorre waiting for a call on a big
black phone from the fat, accented ocean,
the brains behind the operation.
Here, nobody goes out when it rains.
Authors read to the backs of empty chairs.
The movies talk to themselves.
Does the whole city steal
that rare chance to stay home, to listen
to weather spackling the windows,
“So What” playing softly in the background,
drink and shrink the stack of magazines
beetled beside the bed? Are they all
afraid of hydroplaning on the 405,
upturned SUVs and jack-knifed trailers,
highway patrol cops in yellow slickers
erecting shrines of flares?
Or do people think they’ll melt
like the wicked witch of the coastal west,
leave nothing but a grounded broom
and a puddle on an empty soundstage as if
it’s 1939 in Culver City? Oh, man,
it’s raining munchkins and there are evil
clouds of flying monkeys rumbling in.
IN MEMORY OF HER MEMORY
The horse that is my mother’s memory
has run away. It hasn’t gone far;
we can see it standing on the hill beside
our property, a silhouette at twilight.
I don’t know who feeds or curries it now,
or if it has gone completely feral.
Sometimes the horse will come close, stand
just out of rope’s reach. She calls to it,
then whispers of their past together.
The horse nickers and snorts softly
when she mentions Philadelphia or Chicago.
Its long neck extends and the horse shakes
its head when she talks about my father,
how she misses him, how people still
stop her on the street or in the grocery store
to tell her they miss him, too.
The horse doesn’t seem to mind
that she repeats herself so often. No one
recalls when the horse got out
or who left the stable door open,
but perhaps the horse will return on its own
and we’ll find it early one morning in its stall
munching hay and burnished oats.
We’ll stroke the velvet blaze on its forehead,
reach into our back pockets
for those special carrots it loves.
And, if we’re lucky, the horse
will linger for a while, maybe
lead us to the place where it last saw
my mother’s missing hearing,
which also slipped away silently
while we were all asleep.
* * *
Both poems originally appeared in Jim Natal’s collection Memory and Rain (Red Hen Press, 2009).