One West Coast

By Al Young b. 1939 Al Young

for Gordon Lapides

Green is the color of everything
that isn’t brown, the tones ranging
like mountains, the colors changing.
 
You look up toward the hills & fog—
the familiarity of it after so many years
          a resident tourist.
 
                                                   A young man walks
toward you in vague streetcrossing denims
& pronounced boots. From the pallor of
          his gait, the orange splotch twin gobs of sunset
          in his shades, from the way he vibrates
          his surrounding air, you can tell, you can tell
                    he’s friendly, circulating,
 
                                    he’s a Californian: comes to visit,
                              stays for years, marries, moves a wife in,
                         kids, wears out TV sets, get stranded on
                                                loneliness,
                                        afternoon pharmaceutica,
                               so that the sky’s got moon in it by
                                    3 o’clock, is blooo, is blown—
                         
                                                                The girls: theyre all
                                        winners reared by grandmothers & CBS.
 
                                    Luckier ones get in a few dances with
                                mom, a few hours, before dad goes back
                            in the slam, before “G’bye I’m off
                                     to be a singer!” & another runaway
                                         Miss American future drifts
                                              over the mountain &
                                                   into the clouds.
 
                                                   Still
            there’s a beautifulness about California.
It’s based on the way each eyeblink toward
the palms & into the orange grove leads backstage
                     into the onionfields.
 
Unreachable, winter happens inside you.
 
Your unshaded eyes dilate at the spectacle.
 
You take trips to contain the mystery.

Al Young, “One West Coast” from The Blues Don’t Change. Copyright © 1982 by Al Young. Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press.

Source: The Blues Don’t Change (Louisiana State University Press, 1982)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Al Young b. 1939

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Al  Young

Biography

Poet, novelist, and professor Al Young was born in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He attended the University of Michigan before moving to the San Francisco Bay area, where he earned a BA in Spanish from the University of California-Berkeley. Young often reads to musical accompaniment, and his poetry reflects his interest in music, specifically jazz and blues, as well as his life in California. His collections of poetry are . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.