Carol was trying to find a few cigarette butts to gut out to make a whole cigarette although she wasn’t a smoker she’d sell them to her neighbors in the tent next door for fifty cents with her thin arms and micro wrists she’d toil for a couple of weeks to raise enough money to go to the flower store on Los Angeles street and buy her parole officer a single rose or sometimes two or three red carnations i had met Carol while i was in high school at that time she was in her thirties she befriended me at People’s Store asking me about my perfume on account that she liked it i was a young punk and i told her that i wasn’t wearing any and walked off Carol stood there looking confused but the guilt gnawed at my chest and i could feel my ears turning hot and red i told my friend to go home and i walked backward a few steps toward Carol as i turned to her i mumbled at  her that i was sorry for blowing her off and offered her my snickers bar she lit up and said thanks kid but i’d rather have some of that beer you have in your back pack i froze and denied having anything in my bag although i knew damned well i had a bottle of Daniels i didn’t like beer we both smiled knowing each other’s truth in bullshit every now and again i’d go looking for her with water bottles canned food and the occasional AJ note if i could spare it we talked about DTLA and Skidrow Carol laughed and i watched her and then she started to tell me about her family out in Virginia Carol had been a victim of many unspeakable things my relationship with Carol lasted for about three years or so her sanity was remarkable but as time went on  it became unbearable to watch her sleep during the day in the summer LA heat her legs were encrusted with months of dirt and when i stared long enough at the splotches they were almost artistic or hieroglyphic in a way i stopped visiting for a few months to reckon with my own demons when i returned it was during spring time and Carol did not recognize me i found her on the corner of 6th and Wall squatted down bare footed picking peas out of a tin can with half a label that read Springfield by her feet was an old pill bottle that read Retrovir a few cigarette butts and a mangled how to live with HIV pamphlet

los soles no miran

en tu fiebre duermes cada noche

reina de la orilla del mar

gritas y pateas a tus soldados

cuando te quieren llevar

a tu palacio en los altos de esta cuidad

tus mandos sin fuerza

tus joyas sin brillo

y tus zapatillas de seda

solo son heridas de la vida

Norma del Reino de Guadalajara

que haces en mi ciudad

perdida de noche

invisible en los días

la luna no brilla

los soles no miran

que tuyos serán los cielos

os sóis não vêem

na sua febre você dorme todas as noites

rainha da praia

você grita e chuta seus soldados

quando eles querem te levar

para o seu palácio nas alturas desta cidade

seus controles sem força

suas jóias maçantes

e seus chinelos de seda

eles são apenas feridas da vida

Norma do Reino de Guadalajara

o que você está fazendo na minha cidade

perdida à noite

invisível nos dias

a lua não brilha

os sóis não parecem

que vocês serão os céus

the suns don’t see

in your fever you sleep every night

queen of the seashore

you scream and kick at your soldiers

when they want to take you to your palace

on the heights of this city

your orders without power

your jewels dulled

and your silk slippers

they are only wounds of life

Norma of the Kingdom of Guadalajara

what are you doing in my city

lost at night

invisible during the days

the moon does not shine

the suns do not see

that you will inherit the heavens

Violet’s sisters

as the cars go by

we sit on the corners

of the public walkways

under tattered canopies

that used to be hanging gardens

and fields of golden straw

our chiffon gowns encrusted with rubies

are dwindled to greasy rags

crystal chandeliers and exquisite ballrooms

transformed to milk crates and cardboard boxes

dignity and the strength of spirit stand tall while

we grow accustomed to darkness


the layers disappear

on the pavement

of her soul

seconds go by and precious

life spills on leaving

opportunities and choices

there is little time in each quandary

before the bell rings and the

arrow picks a destination

sweet and bitter most of


through the soil

are the roots

and as they reach

the point of end

the layers are


but she is not the same

July 4, 1981

in the grocery cart you find the frogs down by the river

                bending in the light to where

the Pacific Bell poles rot at the bottom

in the creek where all the vagrants pee

                  it’s not lady like to see those things

but i guess i can learn faster to just look

   lucidity in their feet as the cops roll bye quietly

                      looking at the river grounds

“shut up shut up shut up!” the mantra of the

            prophetic invisibles fighting to stay in the

                      black hole

by the river Frog-town groans and the little fire fluffs

    spark here and there like in Gustav’s serpents

but Chavez’ Ravine bullies the twilight with a salute to

                   the liberation on the fourth

and we are all out of innings               


the fat of the land has dried into grime

mere clots of spit and mire

under her instant foot in the vomit of the day

the sour milkiness of death’s redolence at night

grabbing at the air grabbing at the sights of

those who have always been there and those

who are to come

shifting in the seas of traffic lights

half-moon eyes bloody in the tides

of discarded discontent

the wind howls on the sills of justice

kissing painfully the wounds on her hand

as puckered resentful coins hiss at her disposition

the wheels of the gods grind on

and her island there waits

the laughing air and the scornful heat

injures her every pore; her pancaked gowns threadbare

smiling at the visions only seen by those who know

the devil and the angels roaming up and down the hill of somber perfection

host to condemnation of heavy hearted posts

vigilant to nothing

in the bell jars of our age

nothing ferments nothing grows

the heart in her breaks the barrier

knowing that she will see some light

the golden days have passed onto a future

waiting there like cats

old castles for her flowers and her stars

beauty melting unto asphalt

a stairway opens up with gems of cardboard

sprigs of wasted love litter her alcove

she lays her head to rest


do black holes exist or are they something i read about in a comic book? are those beautiful pictures of nebulas shaped like crabs and other creatures that i see in the science magazines real? how can i know for sure that this very night i am walking home? how can i know for sure that i am walking back to a home and that i will get there? can a black hole, if it is real snatch me up? would it think i am important? does it matter what religion scientists are? does it matter what i believe? does God want me? do i want God to want me? if i give and give and give will it make a difference? is it better to take and take and take? is my smile enough to save a dying life? my own? if i am sad is it bad? am i broken in an unfixable way? can i benefit from anything modern? am i too late for anything old? did i ever make love? do i have control over any war? do i have control over any deficit? do i reward bad and punish good? if i reward bad on earth and punish good on earth, will the bad go to hell and the good to heaven? why can i not explain what i know? is that bad? is dreaming bad? did Gabriel pinch my lips together? or did i just get punched on the mouth? should i talk? should i judge? would that make me a better person? am i compassionate? is there a time and a place for everything? what did my mother raise? did she have a hand at molding me? why do i like what i like? why do i like what i don’t like anyway? do i contribute to my perdition? am i good? does anyone think of me? do you?

a broadway revival

crawling, burnt with Holy Spirit at the foot

          of the great Hall.

                             hot, no finger pointing

at the crossroad of the Elysian Dam

                 and that dusty quenchless sea.

        fire, light unbearable

to those two brown eyes that hunger for voice.

an only champion

    of beggar’s bowl and head lice cause.

           circumstance only for

                    her lungs.

     let the air flow in

as liberty swings too low to launch our mystic to truth.

                 He has told you,

       now you listen.

inherit the earth underneath your nails,

              and feed on recycled prayers,

while the horses gallop with broken hoof       past the curfew of the silent night.