Perihelion: An Online Journal of Poetry and Mayhem
The Santa Cruz Issue
 
 

TERRI DRAKE

ON FIRE

 

L.A. is burning.
I’m flying straight into its fires.
A movie set in flames,
a towering city of alabaster and glass
casting no shadow. Wild with fire.
Dancing with frenzy. With free fall –
the Santa Ana’s hot breath on my neck.

Canyon lands,
has it really been all mirrors and smoke?
A eucalyptus totem smoldering on the altar?
I’m bringing you burnt offerings.
I’m giving you the third degree,
the smoking gun.

Yes, I went to the fires,
because I am burning inside,
because I am a tinder box praying for spark.
Refine me, I said to the fire.
Torch me like a runner in victory lap
circling the coliseum.

Forge me in ecstasy.
Call me all consumed.
Call me all the rage
See how I glow
in my hot orange Hollywood boots.

Tomorrow, I may be spent.
Tomorrow, I may appear in my blackface,
blear and Vaudevillian, burnt cowboy,
scorched and gorgeous chorus girl
stepping back into line,
smog bodied, asthmatic industry bastard
with audience gasping.

Breathless suspense of the nonbelievers,
I’m telling you something has happened,
in high definition, in digital,
in real time magnified plasma.

Whoever imagined this city at nightfall
ringed by such awe-struck light –
palm oracle blazing at dusk,
palm oracle, bordering prophecy’s territory,
vatic crackling, palm oracle in your hazy halo of smog.
How does one predict the ending?

You are Armageddon’s prodigal son.
You are Nostradamus’ drunk illiterate scribe.
Tell me it was not all lies.
The illuminated texts will be flames now,
the immoblized cars on the freeways a sign.
We are burning our fossil fuels quickly.
They’ll fuel our demise.

This city, once removed,
had a name once and a place.
It had a desert where the angels landed,
where the singed wings of a city
contemplated flight.
It had a record album.
It produced hot tracks,
reverberating bass, conjugal music
drummed late into the night.
This inferno has no layers,
but many stories,
only some of which involve sloth and greed.
“Tell me a story,” I said to my mother each night,
“about the heretic burned at the stake,
and tell me, pray tell what’s at stake.”