The L.A. Skyline at Sunrise Two Prose Poems by Jeff Burt

The L.A. Skyline at Sunrise

Haze pink, a Hollywood cerise deeper than a pink flamingo or fandango pink and pinker than coral or salmon-crested cockatoo pink, darker than Persian pink or Persian rose of carpets, darker than raspberry, lighter than cranberry and deeper than watermelon, a cherry blossom pink less subtle than carnations and hung-over fuchsias, the forever amaranths face-lifted and drooping their heads in fatigue, a cotton candy mogul pink, a pig pink and tickle me pink, carmine from the crushed bodies stepped on to succeed.

Tapping the Taut Drum of the Street

I switch from left side to right side to backside to stomach, and nothing works. I agitate like a tumbler deburring metals or polishing small quartz, but I remove no stubs or thorns that inject themselves into my sleep. I shift my legs so often I walk on air, as if a vertical path were between my feet as I lie horizontal on the couch. I put on pants and a coat and walk into the flowing fog, moving inland like a river up streets and earth’s ravines and depressions. I see the drunken warrior withered to a specter that lurched from a bar at closing time and made it no further than the end of the brick patio where two Serbian refugees served him beer until he sank like a ship, filling, listing, then down with a streak. As I walk past him, I smell the beer and urine on his rags, the smell that separates the men from the boys when they enter the bar. He sputters into the gutter gibberish and mayhem, his red vest tucked into his trousers, his Navy seal of approval around his neck, a once brilliant bird now fallen. He is like a wound in my chest. For this man who seeks but cannot find, browned domes rotting in his mouth, blue veins breaking the pallor of cheeks, I wish for death, for the nothing he seeks, not the eggs and sausage and coffee he will be fed at eight a.m. with a sermon and a prayer, but the death of his private soul that his body public might live. And to wish for his healing is to widen the wound, so I walk when the light of morning is too long in coming and evening’s dream of seduction is too far gone, and pass a paramedic signing a cross in the air, a young man between sheets on a stretcher in the vice of final isolation, his perforate arm strewn over his face. I walk to the voice of the gutter, of the hungry, of the given up, to the angry faces of bored men who live dead to the life and love and the gift one greening stem extends. And to walk is to stitch the wound and wait for the mending, to flesh out the bone in a movement of mass (remember the park! the fat lady dances, centrifugal force, but light and lost in centripetal mind). Blessed by the mist that washes my hair, awakened by the smoke from burning cow dung at mushroom stores which sear my nostrils, I am drawn by the craft of a grappling baker and pulled by the city rising.

In the plain dull sough of the street passion stirs. And to cure the wound is to kiss it like a child with faith in his lips, and I hear the wooing of a whistling barber early to open his trade, a mother and child chided by a silver bus with its airbrakes hissing like geese, I hear the faith of roses, roses, roses, the whisper of paper round roses, which men and women buy for whom it does not matter for it is the whisper of paper and the gift of roses. So I run to the second level parking lot waving my arms like divining rods of harmony to lead the forgotten celestial spheres and an orchestra of missing cars. Out of breath, legs like solid iron, lungs like turgid lava, I am healed, and the world I seek to heal remains hurt. A packing plant oozes the aroma of herbs, wind flushes the street, a block of unharvested weeds yields a dark swarm of starlings and one blue bird, a radio tattles a tip on playing the horses. At sixes and sevens, out of plumb, unbalanced, I and the world, a sum of thirteen, not the infinite eight nor heavenly nine, not the beginning and end found in ten, not the luck of eleven nor the even dozen, but sixes and sevens, thirteen, as in the one thing extra in the baker’s dozen, as in unlucky at everything but love. So I rest. Non-linear people pour into geometric streets, bistros open and flophouses close, kisses replace daggers and guns, and a paperboy like a demi-god among clouds dodges the cars and dogs, tapping the taut drum of the street, leaping from iron railings, and his legs make a rainbow’s arch in the phosphorescent fading fog.

Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife near the Pacific Ocean amid the redwoods. He has published in journals The Nervous Breakdown, The Rain, Party, and Disaster Society, Eclectica and Amarillo Bay, and has work forthcoming in Per Contra, Watershed, and After the pause. He was the featured summer issue poet of Clerestory, won the 2011 SuRaa short fiction award, and been nominated for a Best of the Net Award.