The Price of Water in Los Angeles

            Sunset and Highland in broad daylight. It’s a tricky place. Exhaust
Swirls like tumbleweeds around ankles and antennae, part of the landscape.
It is a landscape of shifting currencies. A lotta skin.
      Of high concept and tripods.
                                                                                                            (Mostly, currency)

            His name is Richard. Sometimes he sleeps w/ a woman named Ellen.
And once he hiked up to the Hollywood sign
On a bet. He was gone all night and Ellen fell asleep      (and waited)
            In the bedroom window.

            He remembers things differently from Ellen
He doesn’t hold the past like
A grudge or an inside straight.                                                (Like Ellen does)

He avoids the eyes of strangers.


His mother had one good eye.

            She longed for depth perception above all else
            And wouldn’t respond when he spoke.

            When he reached the age of consent
            He got married in Tijuana
            And never told her.

They still laugh about it.

She didn’t work and he would go with her downtown,
            On Tuesdays, to the unemployment office


            She won’t leave him alone with words.

Words alone offer no solace: Only movie trailers, a quickie divorce
Can settle accounts and wake the nations
            Like the ruby crucifix that dangles from his ear.

            When she reminds him that the diminutive of his name
                        Is a vulgar synonym for penis
                        He finds himself unable to get it up.
            With no hope of retribution.
                                                                                                            Or redemption.


His mother had a butterfly tattoo on her butt.
She made him take her to the parlor in the valley
And watch while a skinny guy with reptile eyes
And roses on his forearms bled her

He knew then that faith was a bad mix with desire.
They haven’t discussed it since. It’s enough that she was

His chrysalis, his own blood metamorphosed into a butterfly.


In a perfect world                                                                  Richard is a reporter
You make your own choices.                              and uses a lot of different
                                                                                                               bylines because he’s convinced
Cash up front.                                                            the CIA is after him. When
                                                                                                               Ellen laughs at him,
The higher order                                                                   she holds his face
Needs no evidence.                                                              in her hands. Sometimes
                                                                                                               it really pisses him off.


It’s not without pastoral elements:

            Round the bend on the 405 just past Reseda
                        Forsaking the coast highway
Slicing south through six lanes of burnt grass and bedroom windows
            L.A. grins back like a rancid tumor
                        Flayed open from no particular center.

                                                Gogol’s Petersburg or Eliot’s London
                                    Would float in a silver cloud or recoil into myth.
            Opal            Jaundice            Zygotes of red and green            leave only

Los Angeles haiku:

                        Single-minded sports cars
                        Mainlining La Cienega
                        Into the Hollywood Hills.

            Sunset Boulevard
            Snaking to the quiet beach
            The water sheer at ebb tide.

It’s hard to get your bearings when the quickest way to the Far East
Is to sail west past Catalina.


The cemetery behind the Avco Theatre on Wilshire. It’s a preacher’s place
            No respect for Marilyn’s daily rose or the leaves
            On Natalie Wood’s grave.

                                    What he loves most about L.A. is—

Ideas—that don’t fit on 3 minutes of video—have no place.
                                    It is a city of stolen water and
No blame,            movies are movies and not films and they’re in color

            And they have movie stars

Hence            the problem of credit.

R. D. Girard | Mudlark No. 21
Contents | Fortunate Son