The Youngest Living Thing in L.A.

By Darcie Dennigan Darcie Dennigan
The youngest living thing in L. A. was my baby.
The oldest living thing was the wind.
 
The wind grew well in that city in the desert.
As did my garden of well-tended cement.
As did my baby, whom I held like a heavy statuette.
 
 
I named him Mill at his birth  . . .  As the wheel goeth by drift of water . . .
 
 
And he grew and the wind blew and we lived in that desert and . . . no rain. No rain, no river. No sound of water. But for—
 
The fountain water.
 
The official fountain. Which flowed. Every day. Every day the baby slept. The baby breathed. The fountain flowed. It flowed imperceptibly. As if its water were fast asleep.
 
 
We stood on the fountain’s shore: woman + newborn.
We made one totem.
I named the baby Easter Island.
 
 
We played I Spy.

 
I saw: coins at the fountain’s bottom. Eyes. Copper cataracts, winking through the water at us.
 
 
I held the baby close. I held the baby stiffly. I brought the baby to see nobody.
 
 
I saw: statues in the fountain’s water. Statues in tall grasses on the shore of a sea. I turned to tell somebody. The city had disappeared into complete silence. There was only: the baby.
 
 
We were watching the water wrinkle in the wind.
In the distance, maids were ironing.
 
 
Overhead: jets drew ciphers in the blue with their chalk.
 
The drift of the maker is dark.
 
 
Beware that by the drifts thou perish not.
 
The statues, the statues in the strange fountain were looking at us. They were weeping and turning, turning and weeping.
 
They might have seen the city shimmering in the sun and wind, and known . . . It was a city with no one in it. If a door somewhere on the street opened, it would always be . . . no one.
 
It would be a bad draft that had blossomed.
 
 
I longed for meadows white with drifts of snow. I named the baby Drift.
 
In the winter I had planned to bring him north. To a barn’s eaves, to hear icicles drip. To prepare him to grow up in the path of the next great glacial drift.
 
 
City whose sky was white jet streaks.
 
Whose houses were apparitions of asbestos flakes.
 
Whose homeless sipped wind from tins.
 
 
Whose only water was the strange fountain.
 
 
Angel, my angel, my sweetheart, wake up. See the foam on the wave, see the tornado, the hurricane.
 
 
We stood on the fountain’s shore. The wind blew particulates of rug powder, of lemon-scented floor polish. The maids of the city were cleaning so completely.
 
And mutely.
 
There may have been other names I gave the baby.
Zeno sweet Zeno
 
Little fellow little fellow
 
Vertigo
 
 
I said to the baby, We will stand here until there is snow on the mountain.
 
I may have meant to say fountain.
 
We peered all day into the strange fountain.
 
 
I said to myself, That is just your face stiffening around your cheeks. That is just grass growing at your feet.
 
 
I held the baby all the time, and he never ever cried.

Darcie Dennigan, “The Youngest Living Thing in L. A.” from Madame X. Copyright ©  2012 by Darcie Dennigan. Reprinted by permission of Canarium Books.

Source: Madame X (Canarium Books, 2012)

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

Poet Darcie Dennigan

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Living, Parenthood, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Darcie  Dennigan

Biography

Darcie Dennigan earned a BA in literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an MFA from the University of Michigan. Her poetry collection Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse (2008) was winner of the Poets Out Loud prize. In her introduction to the volume, judge Alice Fulton found Dennigan’s long-lined, historically informed poems to be “underwritten by lyric, narrative, pastoral, satire and epic modes.” Dennigan is . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Parenthood, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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.