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Hello poetry board. I thought I’d start out the year with a silly subject pun. How did I do? Feel free to use it in your daily correspondences.
It’s a dry, warm Southern California day today and I’m looking out over my Venice Beach porch to the East. The Hollywood sign sticks out of the Mountain’s cleavage like a hand made toothbrush shank. This town is where I was born. Where my Father once walked on his hands all the way around the old MGM lot on Overland Blvd (now Sony Studios). Where my Mother chased tadpoles in the creeks of Nichols Canyon. Where my grandfather carried a pistol in his violin case on his way to the L.A. Philharmonic everyday. Where my grandmother died of a particularly cruel kind of cancer. We were all born here. My home in Venice is 10 blocks from the apartment where I was born and raised, where my parents still live. My grade school, where I spent 9 years of my school life, is just 2 blocks over. From my roof, I can see the street where I had my first drunken stumble home while singing Edie Brickell a capella with my girlfriends. Under that new guise of intoxication, I learned for the first time, or perhaps payed attention to, the infectious smell of night blooming jasmine; the ancient pheromone of this city. In May, the streets become littered with the lavender petals of Jacaranda trees, something I’ve only seen anywhere else during Sakura season in Japan.
On Ashland street, my first crush lit a match and gave me the time til it burnt out to tell him why I think he should be my boyfriend. It turned out to be my first kiss. I drive by that corner every day on my way to the freeway.
Our school would take class trips to the beach. We’d follow our teacher Jim Hayman (Teachers where called by their first names at our school) down to Lifeguard Station 26 then scatter our beach towels and barely get sunscreen on before rushing into the waves. I watched the two school mortal enemies bond over a jelly Fish sting once. One of them had been stung and we all knew the protocol was to keep her as warm as possible. Everyone in the class put their towels on her shivering, pained body. Her head poked out of the mountain of fabric like a sad little sea turtle. Her nemesis Dana approached. Everyone held their breath. Dana placed her Michael Jackson towel on top of the pile; an olive branch. It was all anyone could talk about in the cafeteria that day. These are some of my memories from growing up here.
Right now, I’m watching a Humming Bird try to get something from a Gardenia plant on my balcony. I can never tell if it’s a failed attempt.
I’ve thought a lot about the actress Brittany Murphy lately- Someone I never knew but whose subsuquent demise I followed out of fascination. She was 32 years old- about 5 years older than me- quite talented and lovely to look at. I know we crossed paths many times, but we never met. I recently sat in a dark corner booth of Hamburger Hamlet with writer and director Amy Heckerling and watched her shake her head with sadness and confusion over Ms. Murphy. I sipped on my Dr. Pepper and just listened. What could I say?
I think about how lost and alone this place can make people feel- how isolated. The secret epidemic of pill popping that occurs in Hollywood to survive the superficiality and the rejection. The way in which this town can so easily unravel the most beautifully woven. I wrote a small poem for Brittany a few days after her death. It’s not meant to amaze you, I don’t expect this board to go bananas over it. I just wanted to share the instantaneously complex feelings of one young actress who was born here, about another young actress who died here. To share for sharing’s sake.
ABOUT THE BODY
In the shower,
her body dies like a spiders.
The blooming flower
seeds a cemetery.
A pill lodges in the inner pocket of her flesh coat.
Her breasts were the gifts of ghosts.
Dark tarps of success.
Her mouth dribbles over
onto the bathroom floor.
The body is removed off the red carpet,
put in a black bag,
taken to the Mother’s screams
The Country says good things
about the body.
They print the best photos;
the least bones, the most peach.
Candles are lit in the glint
of every glam. Every magazine stand
does the Southern Bell curtsy in her post-box office bomb honor.
The autopsy finds an easy answer.
They say good things about the body.
How bold her eyes were, bigger than Hepburn’s.
The way she could turn into her camera close-up
like life depended on her.