Speak the Language of the Land is the first of what will be an annual showcase of talented poets, presented by the Lummox Press in conjunction with The LUMMOX Poetry Anthology and the Angela Consolo Mankiewicz Poetry Prize(courtesy of the estate of Angela C. Mankiewicz and her husband, Richard Mankiewicz).
Swing clarinet blinks neon in a foggy afternoon.
Black wings take to the carmine sky. A cry rises
loud enough to be heard on the other side.
Flash of black limbs spread deep into ruddy earth.
Another son dead 50 years before his time. Another
Mama looking hard for some good to find.
A spontaneous wail stretches from the golden gate
to the one made of pearl. Despair travels a highway
that ends in unfriendly waves.
Either way, waters cold or warm still drown the same.
Every mothers’ sun rises on a world black with pain.
Every breath becomes a sob.
Every mothers’ son lucky each day he doesn’t die.
Flesh like Black Palm. Skin like Walnut.
Every time another son gone
every mother joins in the silent sigh.
Nothing as cold as a summertime rain.
Cruising the Alameda
After hearing Douglas Kearney’s “Alameda Street”
Down on Alameda, close to Azcarate, a 1955 Bel Aire. A stretch of chrome splits pink from white, ends in fins.
The color of Bazooka, that gum wrapped in a comic,
goofy boy’s face covered by a turtleneck.
A bass beat from a purple T-bird rattles storefront windows.
Good boys pretend to be bad, white cotton shirt over khakis,
almost a uniform. Pack of Lucky Strikes in rolled up sleeve,
sleek groomed hair.
Grandmas cross themselves, not sure if the bad boys just pretend. Intimidated bookkeepers on their way to work lock the car doors. Attracted, but not fast or loose, secretaries check their lipstick,
touch their hair, flash big I-Love-Lucy smiles.
If I Daddy hears me laugh louder than Bobby Fuller on the radio I get, What did your mama tell you before she let you come along, baby? What she always says, I chime, be a little lady. I look down, imagine white patent leather shoes,
pink flowers on an Easter hat bobbing in time to rock and roll,
scalloped anklets embroidered with tulips. I repent laughing too loud,
still looking at the boys in the corner crowd. Eyes on my tennie shoes,
I hum along with the radio and vow,
When I grow up, I’m going to laugh out loud. When I’m full grown,
I’m going to brag of how I cruised the Alameda in a bubblegum car,
speaking Spanish to Daddy, English to Mama, and Spanglish to friends.
All the time loving the drama of bad, bad boys.
Your smell is a glove
That splash of secret smile, so rare, such sweet victory. That flash caught by fluke in response to something I said The Cramps blasting up to the open sky, wintry and hot. The beat takes over my body and the words happen
without premeditation. I need a new wardrobe now. I still feel the flannel gown I had on 20 minutes ago,
the snuffled tears dried by the desert air of my bedroom.
You move fast, both behind the wheel of a car and walking
through a doorway. Christening my lips with something
both sweet and bitter. I caress my face with speckled
knuckles. Your smell is like a glove.