Four Poems

God, nostalgia, anger and love

By Mark Sotelo
Published on LatinoLA: January 13, 2004

Four Poems

***The Landlord

Crazy stars that flash above the insects of the earth
Lighting the streets so tears know which gutters to run down
I have walked under you so long that I can feel your lash of morning rise
But I am not ready to begin another day
I refuse it
I have so many questions for the landlord no one has ever seen
But whose book is a perennial bestseller
I cannot sleep till I know something
How can my life be so short and so long at the very same time?
Where is my bluebird of happiness or lapdog of luxury or whatever you may call it?
All this education and I continue to know less and less
Time is falling and what passes for knowledge is a laughing dog
An amateur singing contest missing only a monkey and accordion
But what is worth knowing that love cannot explain?
If he were here I would grab him by his London Fog jacket and say
'Tell me one secret worth hearing'
But here there are only cardboard men in real suffering
And the moon has had enough of itself
Fading away like the summer freckles of children
And like all men with these questions
I have to wait till he wants his rent

***Summer 1976

There is a place
Where all those plastic yellow spools
That you put on your 45-rpm records
So they would play
Still exist

They lie there in a pile of crushes
At the feet of all the girls you thought you could not live without
But whose names you can't remember
They are the same age that you left them at
They drink Tab and wear million watt smiles
That blow out the sun
And their skin smells like Coppertone and the cool sinless beaches
Of the future

All of this is in your backyard
And next door it's raining baseballs hit by from remorseless 11-year olds
Like you used to be
And your mom and dad are still together
Confused, strained but together
You still believe they know how to fix things
In a year you will know the truth

But that summer you were immune
God was in his heaven as Andrew Lloyd Webber remembered him
Even Elvis had not crapped out. Just yet.
And on earth Peter Frampton came alive

Your life began to spread its wings in the same sputtering languid way
That your grandmother's wrinkled smile would cross her face. She was alive then, too
Handing out silver dollars to you when no one was looking so you could bring back something sweet form the La Panaderia on Whittier Boulevard

You did not know if Seals and Crofts were the same thing as the Sid and Marty Krofts puppet show but they were right about that summer breeze

In 1976.

***Punkass California

I'm calling you out
You with your sour milk and sagging sunshine
Strip bar funny money and strip mall imagination
I see you
You haven't been beautiful for a long time
And you haven't been faithful for an even longer time
And no one will tell you
I'm going to tell you
I see working people homeless under your wings
I see people waiting eight hours to see a doctor
And being told tough shit come back Monday
Try not to die over the weekend
I see your seek and destroy developers
And families chased like roaches out of their homes because you're a greed junkie
And you can't get enough
I see the men who pimp you out
They drive expensive cars and have see-through souls
They wave their hands and cry at council meetings and press conferences
'There's no money. There no money'
And they give themselves another raise and buy new sportscars
And they lunch with you on immigrant sweat and middle class delusions
I could go on
Because I can't help myself
In short
You can take your hypodermic beaches
Your club crawlers
Your bad TV peddlers
Your right wing radio hosts
Your sweatshop kingpins
Your nine millionth special commission that decides to do nothing
Your politicians whose solution is always someone else's misery
Your drive-by indifferences
And anybody and anything keeping your bullshit rep afloat
Like a rotting corpse in a new prom dress
And you can..
Well, you know
I don't want to see your varicose highways
I don't care about your latest spiritual facelift
Your 17-dollar a pound imported coffee
Or SUV the size of a rhino's ass
Ever leave the 323 or is that another planet to you?
Your reputation is played out
Your Hollywood postcards are piss yellow and your cliches don't put new schoolbooks in kid's hands
Or asbestos out of their lungs
Show me something new
A new way
A new idea
A real chance
Taking money from the poor, keeping the rich, rich and borrowing money you don't have
Is not a new idea
It's your way of life
It's becoming our way of death
So show me something new, California
Make me believe in you again
And if this poem offends you

It's because you're sick
I want you well
I remember you well
And if it still offends you
Why don't YOU leave?
Why should I?

I still remember you when you were a lady

***For Julia

I think of you
As the days think of themselves
Bold, long and elegant
My place with you
On a bed or leaning into you on a train ride
Is the best place I have ever known
And those conversations in the dark
Are seasons onto themselves
I just wanted you to know
You have my heart and many things that lie beyond it
As always
Be careful
My love

About Mark Sotelo:
Mark Sotelo finds the poverty thing getting pretty old. He has tried to be a good guy, worked in various non-profits with kids, got a BA but is still doing the Ramen thing. Any job offers? mlsotelo2002@yahoo.com

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