Two Poems

Paradise, lost

Trapped there in their cars, the people
of Los Angeles roll from ramp to ramp
on to and off of their cruelly named
freeways, talking into air when voices
come through Bluetooth. Chests
strapped, hips braced in bucket seats
upholstered for both sun and sweat
do the people wonder, trapped, what’s
become of angels in LA – asking Where
are they now?
What are they – angels
in the Great Satan of cities? What can
they be inside the horror, the horror?
What is celestial, people ask, driving
those endless tracks of cracked cement
spewing poison, breathing & eating it
to live.

What would angels do there? Guardian
and cherub, LA seraphim have folded
their wings, have tightened them, out
at the western edge – Malibu, Palisades.
Gossamer spirits shake their quills
over the city’s treeless lanes, wave plumes
over the city’s carcinogenic spread
over the people seeking an action savior
whose messianic cape billows through
Beverly Hills, trails damply across Silver
Lake’s reservoir, obscures Culver City
then slides out the 10 to East LA
flashes south to Long Beach, north
again to Redondo & Manhattan, so
they all can say: That cape looks just
like angel wings.

Do angels live in Disneyland, one kind
of American heaven? Or out on Catalina,
another? Maybe they’re floating off
the end of Santa Monica’s pier, feathery
outlines of heavenly neon visible
just from the top of the ferris wheel.
If this was their city, where did they go?
Oh, I know. They’ve flown to Vegas. Gabriel
blows his trumpet in the lounge. Lucifer
makes his point ten dozen ways. Small
ones like Adroziel, angel of the night’s
fourth hour, scan Facebook & YouTube
while Michael, now Corleone, brandishes
his flaming sword in mirrors tilted down
at stiff kings, one-eyed jacks, lone aces
and flashing slot machines.


Maybe you think

Remember when people used to say
I don’t care about boy or girl
I just want it to be healthy – ?
Remember when people said that?
Everybody knew they were lying
because they really wanted a little girl
with freckles across the bridge of her nose
who’d sing alto in the high school choir.
Or they wanted a little boy
whose nickname would be Junior
because he looked like his father
and walked like him too.
Everybody smiled and nodded
because that’s what they’d say.
Are you old enough to remember that?

Well (you know what I’m going to say
now), those days are over. Those
days are gone gone gone. Maybe
you think that’s good because
before, everybody was dishonest.
Everybody was phony. Maybe
you think that’s good because
now people will say it right
out loud: I want her to be tall.
I always wished I was tall; why
should my daughter be short?
Or they might say, I want him to
have perfect ears, flat against his head.
My ears were a joke but why
should my son be laughed at too?

Maybe you think it’s good people
will just come right out and say it:
I want a boy with pale skin, straight hair
and the highest IQ they can program.
Maybe some will say: I don’t want
this kid to be too smart, you know?
I’ve seen the attitude smart ones have.
I sure don’t need to deal with that.

—Judith Arcana, Portland, OR