52 Poems for 2013, 26/52: Dreaming California


Wake up America, to Rodney King and the LA riots, to the trial of OJ Simpson, racial discord.

Wake up, walk up the Las Vegas strip, rent a room inside a pyramid, watch cabs roll up under a concrete sphinx, get welcomed by a talking robotic camel. Wake up to sixty channels of shit and conclude that this is a nation of children.

Walk around, take the wrong turn in San Francisco, find yourself in Tenderloin, the Civic Centre: like a scene from Batman. Cripples, “punks”, society’s outcasts are all colour-coded black for ease of alienation. Here is the Town Hall and the Municipal Library boarded up and their public gardens peopled by disfigured monsters. The very heart of town given up to the undead. Don’t drive there, don’t think about there. Keep smiling and having nice days, thank you, you’re welcome.

Look at the Prairie dolls houses in a shop window: each one the height of a man. The American Dream in perfect miniature. Or the Christmas villages on display in the big department stores: with tiny skating figures circling on winter ponds, as tiny lights flicker on and off around tiny plastic inns and plastic shops.

Look at the people sleeping rough in the rain in every doorway on Sutter Street. Woody Guthrie’s music still ringing in your ears long after the Great Depression: Buddy can you spare a dime?

The dime has two faces. I see in my mind’s eye: a tramp sleeping inside a doll’s house in a shop window at night. America’s dream and nightmare cancel each other out. Short circuit. Neutrality reigns and the tyranny of ordinary life continues. Clark Kent turns up his collar in Metropolis and heads home late and tired. Paranoid now, seeing an analyst twice a week, he steers clear of telephone boxes…


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Filed in News, Stories on June 24, 2013