poems by Steve DeFrance

Angels Are Dying In Los Angeles

Wind blows across Mendocino
Beach with icy chill,
sinks in & bites hard. The
sand has been
blasted white from this
wind. Situated just above
the beach—sun blanched trees
sit curved from
the wind looking like arthritic
old men staring at
the Northern passage of the
sea.

Back in L.A.
I know the
sky lies like a cheap
electric blanket
over the backs of the
homeless.
The wind here hardly ever
blows.
Machines grind metal
&
oil into still air until it
seems too thick to breathe
& slowly sky sewage is
pumped into our lungs.
Another day as L. A. shooters
try to break even.
Children smashed against
walls.
Murders.
Rapes.
Hot.
Wet.
Dazzling L.A.

I’ve driven
north—salmon-like to spawn.
To escape. To find peace. And I
do.
I find a perfect beach—beauty
everywhere:
sea, rivers, redwoods, curving
streams,
cliffs, big sky, cold rushing
wind,
& trees hunched and molded
by the wind.
Songs from meadowlarks–fill
the
air!
So much beauty. I can’t
stand it!

I need the cacophony of metal
& brakes & horns.
I need the stench of the
homeless in
downtown L.A.—their smell of
death,
as they drift across city
sidewalks,
gathering like blood in broken
veins
screaming at memories &
ghosts
frightening passing
tourists,
casualties from the darker side
of America
these shadows dying in the
city’s crevices.

Up here—I enter a bookstore
called
Walden Pond
I read local poets. Sloppy
rhymers & English majors,
or retirees, or people who
haven’t read poetry
in 50 years, but think they
should write it
by the pound. Their lines full
of
tall pines
& hawks in sky—or spiders
frozen in webs,
dying flowers in field, bees
& insects aplenty,
a total tyranny of
nature.
Enough peace & dope &
nature rhapsody

to make you puke or slit your
wrists or both.

Send me back to LA where movie
stars
complain of the vermin in the
streets
& vermin in the streets
complain of the movie stars.
And thieves, pimps, & whores
drowse into another restless night.
Send me back where riots are
called social uprisings.
And where disaffected
social-revolutionaries
work in strip malls seeking
economic
redemption through telemarketing
sales.

While LA’s politically
correct
university poets
hemorrhage in words, with
nothing to offend
the nothings who read
them.
The university word pimps
don’t know
what every homeboy
knows.
L.A. is the gun that explodes in
your face.
And in the metaphysics of this
downtown world
any day is a good day to
die..

Brown skin & brown eyes
linger on corners
and the real angels are for
sale,
or are dying, or are dead from
AIDS
are you dying?

Up here in the land of wind
& fog
We suck the magic
hemp
hold hands to a
mantra
pray to Buddha for
peace.
hear rocks grow & we
know
Chairman Mao will save
us
from capitalism.
We toke magic grass &
ply
mushroom forests
we stare at the mutable
sea.
we search for a perfect
Merlot.
And some Natives are pretty
upset about
the world’s disregard for
lobster family values.

And the rest of the
natives
when not engaged in
self-idolatry,
are pretty loopy about world
peace.. . .
Me too …
But I am getting. . .
like. .. . really bored
So when my head clears, I think
I will give up
the religion of Merlot and head
toward Highway #1
I’ll find some open range
& people who say “howdy.”
After that I will slowly work my
way back
to the devastating clarity of
LA. where I will take
my place in the pantheon of
street poets
& tell sad
tales of the
death of angels.

City Lights Book Store

It
was my birthday & no birds sang.
Dead at thirty was the cry of my
generation.
Free love & back to mother
earth.
Groovy man!
The
holy commune, vows of silence,
good Karma & love
oils.
Bagavegeta, batik, tie dye &
incense
& love the one you’re
with.
Jim
Jones, Buffalo Springfield
Jefferson Airplane, Donovan,
Dylan
Sounds of the
universe
blowing in the wind.
Timothy Leary—-Weird man,
weird

A
whore priestess sexually
attends the needy at Nepal
temple.
Far fucking out,
man!
Incense burns in
Bangladesh.
Nirvana in
the endless
orgasm!

Black panthers, civil
disobedience
free love, free speech, dirty
speech,
voices of the coming
revolution
strangely garbled in the skin
trade
Timothy Leary, Beat
poets
of North Beach
City Lights Books
Saw
dust and dark ale.
Poetry readings & oyster
shells.
Kenneth Patchen reads the
news
Ginsberg Howls
Ferlinghetti has a Dog
Trotting Freely
Kerouac lives as a
Subterranean
Snider finds Buddha.
They taught us the finger
chimes.
Paradise Found
in
a bottle.
in
a vein
a
poem
Or
the
silence of a holy
leaf.
Not
like an uptight generation X.
with HGTV for souls. We
were
never vested.
We
were free from such material things
We
were W…A….Y
GROOVY
M
A
N

The Watcher

As I write this poem.
He watches
Perplexed—he lifts his
unremarkable
hand to his
forehead.
Sweat
glistens at his
temples.
Eyes penetrating—yet
cool.
Amused.
Expectant—but not
expectant.

To hell with him.
I start my
poem—

The Hohokum Indian
Tribe.
Nomads.
High plains drifters.
Covering the ground like
leaves
drifting away with the
seasons.
A dig in Tucson,
Arizona.

My guide, an antediluvian
female
describes
how the scattered
mounds
on the ground are really ancient
garbage sites..
The Hohokum threw things,
“artifacts,”
out of wigwams, or out of mound
doors
onto a great civic pile, until
it was time to move.
She smiles through her fist of a
face.
“Then, they’d pack up the
old,
the young, the sick, and
pull-out
the whole village.” She
laughs.

That night I am drinking cactus
liquor,
writing the part where the
Indians
burn-out and kill a Mexican
rancher and wife,
when suddenly, the
Watcher in the wooden
chair walks over and stares at
what I’ve
written.. He rubs his hand
across his
eyes. There’s more sweat at
his temple.
He walks back to the chair,

stares
through the windowpane without
expression.

He’s getting on my
nerves.
I continue to make the
poem.

The following morning— crisp
and cold.
The reservation so icy it stings
my lungs.
The smell of old
land
is everywhere.
Moldy.
My body aches from this
slow
transport of time.

All my bones sore from the
cold.
I drive the Government
streets
lined with tract houses. Row
after row.
More stockades than
homes.
Curious brown eyes follow
me
past abandoned pick-ups, rusted
washing
machines, twisted piles of
government
refuse, melting on lawns. Modern
Indians
throwing modern artifacts from
Government
houses.
Everything’s worn, burnt or
dying except for these
new stucco dwellings that ignite
the tan desert
with bright rebellious and
insane colors.

I’m about to connect
past
with present,
when the Watcher
stands
and repeats
the word
“Why,”
flatly—several
times.

I’ve begun to doubt
myself.
Still I continue the
poem.

It’s noon, but still
cold.
I’m out of my car in a dirt
parking lot,
the Watcher sits in the
front seat,
he doesn’t seem to move at
all.

We are parked next to an Indian
Casino.
A huge sign hangs over
the
door: B I N G O T O N I G H T.
It’s the finest building on
the reservation.
I consider the notion that a
certain amount
of debris gathers at the edges
of every human dream.

At length, the
Watcher
angered by what I had written,
springs
out the car window, and
cat-quick catapults
into the encroaching
darkness.
As I watch him leave—fold
this poem
into the shape of a
memory.

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