103rd Street / Watts Towers
Suicide help lines posted
on signs above the train tracks
make her wonder where the
stars went make her wonder
what she’d do if
someone near her jumped
Decided she ain’t tryna
save a life, she just tryna
Little girl with big bright eyes,
do your troubles have a name?
Little girl your kicks are sticking
to the pavement. Do you ever watch
the planes at night?
They’ll try to tell you otherwise but
you don’t gotta unstick yourself.
In the City of Angels someone’s bound
to get caught in the smog layer.
7th Street / Metro Center
She looks for you in ****-soaked
alleys, on rusted fire escapes, behind
buildings flashing neon green crosses,
a sort of salvation — together you’re
the most perfect covenant.
Does she tell you that enough?
There’s no such thing as dreaming
here, and you get used to that.
You get used to everything.
When you’re flying over Angel’s Knoll
it’s easy to forget how far you are
from Hollywood, same city same jungle,
the only place with hundreds of stars
on the sidewalk but hardly any
in the sky.
put the key in the ignition, the car into drive, and all your gross post-*** insecurities to the back of your mind. forget you don’t have a license. forget she’s asleep in the bed that knows your panic attacks like they’re a late-night tv special and roll out onto the road - don’t hit the neighbor’s buick - drive. drive.
take the route you used to sneak over to your boyfriend’s house in 7th grade. feel the ghosts of his hungry pubescent hands under your bra, get that old lump in your throat, wish you could go back in time and scream that you weren’t ready and that you’d never be ready and that one day you’ll be seventeen driving down his street hating the way he used to own you. remember that his street is also your street. remember that you’re worth owning things too.
pass by the house your best friend used to live in, back when summers meant hot cheetos and horchata instead of cigarettes and cheap sangria. pray that one day you’ll be that way again, happy and fearless and okay with being alone. scold yourself for praying.
forget where you’re going until your stomach growls and the road gets narrow. then keep driving.
bone is bone is bone
my hands are forever too tiny,
my hips forever too big,
and you forever the girl
who’s always wanted to leave.
when we first met you talked of
hating the palm trees seventy degrees
traffic clogged grit and smog,
graffiti covered rat sewers
mansions dotting all the hills
and everything else i’ve ever loved.
i reminded myself that some people
need more than a place with
hundreds of stars on the sidewalk
but hardly any in the sky.
when i think of superpowers
i imagine being strong enough
to carry manhattan to you on my
shoulders and all your rain clouds
in my arms.
if you ever turned fragile i would
arrange a fortress out of skyscrapers
big enough to cover all the hills,
and with tiny hands i’d point
to the clouds and make them fill
the sky outside your window;
white as bone, as bone,
i just turned 17 and i bought a ****** e-cig
off some guy in venice.
it squeaks when i try to use it
and the vapor scares my cat,
and i’m in love with this girl who tried it
while she was tangled up in my sheets —
she said she hated it but hey,
i just turned 17 and i can’t be the only kid
in this city who doesn’t need a nicotine fix.
on thursday nights i stand outside coffee shops
with the ones who smoke those reds
and blues and velvet blacks
that come in wooden boxes like fine cigars.
i hate that scene but i’m addicted to it
because i just turned 17 and everything
about me is being reshaped like play-doh.
my mom calls it impressionable, i call it fearless.
i just turned 17 and i’d like to think i’m not as insecure
as i feel, but i had to move the full-length mirror
out of my room and nothing i do counts
unless i put it on instagram.
i just turned 17 and that’s the age all the
songs are about, the year of dancing queens
and cheap red wine and sneaking through
the suburbs to get to your girlfriend’s house.
i used to think i wanted to see the world but
i just turned 17 and i can’t stop falling in love
with the city i live in —
you can’t see too many stars here but it feels
safer that way, like i’m less likely to float into space.
tethered is a good thing to be,
at least until all the different parts of me
finally get strung together.
i just turned 17 and i’m scared the nicotine
can’t hide that i’m just a work in progress.
i want you to be here when
i’m no longer soft and beautiful.
i want you to stay for when
my voice slips out of itself
and into another, when the crescent moons
of my body turn stubborn and rigid
and my chest is gutted, stitched, sculpted
like marble like artwork like a chiseled
gravestone reading “here lies your golden girl,
basked in till her light changed hues.”
stay until all my cells have been replaced
and i look at you with different eyes,
hold you with different arms.
this body is changing for my today
but staying for your tomorrow.
you said falling in love would be
that breath before the fanfare,
that clap of thunder that starts
at the timpani and catches in
the space between the horn
and your fingertips
before sending soundsparks shooting
down the finished brass.
you said it’d be counting measures.
said i’d feel it at my core like
the first chord after two-for-nothing,
something crashing through me
same as a conductor’s stick;
one and two and one and two
and one, two, three, four.
instead it tasted like stale
cigarettes and the halfbreath
you only remember to take
after the orchestra has started
i’ve been trying to remind you
of when we waltzed to minor chords
in our best friend’s basement —
his piano fingers were rusting away
so all we said was keep it steady,
keep it three-four.
you danced out of time
and stepped on my toes but
by the end i was still reciting
"i’ll do better next time,"
one, two, three, one, two.
when you weren’t looking
i circled all the fermatas
on your sheet music.
you found out and said
i didn’t have to,
you could remember
on your own.
it was my first cigarette
in weeks that i hadn’t found
half-smoked on the asphalt
and it still tasted like something
leftover from somewhere
i don’t belong;
its smoke drifted through
the evening city mist like
how our voices used to harmonize
but only when we weren’t trying.
on the blue line through
south central i heard someone
say “i could’ve been president
of the whole world, could’ve
taught y’all something about
she wasn’t talking to nobody
but the whole train listened
and in that, she taught me
more than any textbook
when you stand on 5th
and san pedro you can’t see
nothing besides the cliff
at the end of the world,
but instead of clouds there’s
puddles of ****, instead of
waterfalls there’s shopping carts
filled with people’s whole lives
and everyone down there is
shaking their heads at you —
leave, leave unless you know
what falling feels like.