where priests buried the Indians
and where the Valley got its water.
We debate how close
to a fault line we can build the subway.
The stress shows, LA falls apart.
I'm beginning to crack too.
Out spills my love child,
my marriages and divorces,
three ex-wives and my lover,
the mother of my daughter,
now a teenager,
all legs and attitude,
out comes the Zoot Suit Riots, flat-brimmed hats
on that June night in '43
when the GIs went crazy,
beating up every pachuco they could find,
Belushi at the Chateau Marmont,
dancing in the penthouse
with the ghosts of Flynn and Harlow,
the Black Dahlia, Benedict Canyon, and Brentwood,
a history of sharp knives,
Chavez Ravine, families evicted
for O'Malley's Dodgers,
my father, murdered in Hollywood,
the Chinese Massacre of 1871,
the tongs pissed off the locals,
19 Chinese killed, 15 of them
hanged over Calle de los Negros,
in Santa Anita horse stalls
waiting for the trip to Manzanar,
the police retreat from Florence and Normandie,
letting the neighborhood burn.
Reprinted from Good Poems, American Places
edited by Garrison Keillor, Penguin Books, 2011.