California Triptych


The California I dream about 

Isn’t the searing razor orange line over the ocean, the

Hammered bronze sky peened with rivets of clouds

Blotting cobalt to grey to black during the sun-fallen cusp of day

Or even Kerouac’s grapefruit dusk

Or the brined churn of the surf

Spliced by surfboards 

Netted by kelp

Turquoise in a storm, and patrolled by sharks 

It’s the simple, cheap houses that stand

Like cardboard boxes, blinking suddenly in the desert light of the forenoon cast

Like fire proving gold

So many corners cut you’d expect a circle

Rattling around in the sand-soft quakes

Slabs of concrete instead of basements and not a place for the wine 

That grows like French lovers out in the sun and fog 

The water pressure in such a hurry to blast out the only thing this place doesn’t have

That mountain-carried water, in such a spate

You’d think it complicit in some mass forced migration

Walls without insulation, thin as addicts

Faux tile roofs, but

Two car garages

Always with the cars, always

And the zero lot line dooryard

With nearly no backyard, stuffed with citrus

Walled more like courtyards and thatched with crawling fig

Entries embowered with the cheap unkillable birds of paradise

And pompom’d with a palm

And thirsty green grass, some weird echo of the east

Strange house pet to the wiry wild chaparral 

That upholsters the hills like crazed hair

Brown-gold tinder temptation of Zeus 

Somehow this hopeless rangy suburbia 

Arrogating out into the desert, dragging with it

The customs of the city, proper

Enlivens that which lies in a quiet shadow-lee of my heart 

Not sadness, not anymore, but

The indent of a lover on a cold pillow

A place where I can walk back, forgetting something in the car parked in the drive,

For we all know the garage would be chocked like a basement,

Barefoot, the cool damp concrete from overrunning sprinklers that IV their plant patients to life overnight 

My sinewed toes root into the car stoned drive like my father’s, younger by half

But same-searching for the roundness of the earth 


To slip the gate I paid 

My $25 for the yellow sticker 

Blazed on my gingham blue shirt

That let me in

The attendant 

A woman whose life had reduced down to a badge 

And a black cardigan and a sore knee and who

Had run out of smiles, this early in her middle age life, 

Was not fucking around about the rules 

It’s 25, and we close in an hour

So past the groves of olive trees 

Fruitless yet 

Tear shaped leaves blushing limeish green in the

Slanty orange yellow light 

Crashing into the San Gabriel mountains 

Leaving that pure desert in the cold

Night starts to dawn 

Past the orange trees, whose fruit hung like glowing lightbulbs in the predark 

And the roses, hundreds of them, all laughing lightly to themselves

Gorgeous and God-sent

Shaking lightly in the almost night 

Quickly quickly now

It’s foolhardy and foolproof 

To catch her hair, straw flaxen squint-same


In this meridional yellow light

15 years not of union 

But reunion after our host soul was twinned by birth 

But to hear our children first 

In the framed and perfect weather

Cool and rabbit ear clear

Setting in motion their own California 

Their own Spanish mystery 

A chaos of love


In the eggshell fragile light

Dry brown, smooth and flooded by desert sky pouring

sun and sun and sun

I had dreamt of my retirement agèd skin mottled and rummaging  

Through silent memories 

A fountain gurgling in the small courtyard 

And KUSC unattended inside 

To drown out 

The roar of the city rushing over the dry basket-brittle grass of the hills

Like a desiccated river 

A roaring arroyo

The only Spanish mystery left

And summer days without rain but with heat to warm my bones

The still-life garden

Tendrils reaching slowly into the marine layer mornings

Stout succulents, unparched 

And plants teeming by the garden spigot

Cheaply sprouted from a tube barely covered, 

And blessed free of frost 

That I might relent and let the tv back in for company 

And watch the Dodgers, young men

Powering through to fame and money 

As I sit quietly reflecting on

A life spent working for some government or another

Trading water, not doing much harm 

Nicolas DeusonComment