First Time in Los Angeles
For the first time I was with you,
in your green-light, with Lewis
and the man who died
just last year from an O.D.—
he had the widest smile —
I was in the throes of your long arms
arming me for what could come next.
Then when what came next
was the long voyage to a bathhouse
with its moody lighting and snarls
and glares saying Come, come
with me soon, here, to this room.
I would come to them,
all of themselves disarmed
and glowing and naked.
When that wasn’t enough, my golden
givings and kisses and touches,
you wanted to leave me untouched
in my fleshy-robe and alone
at the bottom of a blue-stillness.
They dragged a body out of there
one year and it wasn’t my body
in the closed mouth of the infinite.
I’m still here, nowadays, clothed,
a little time longer, remembering
the rude act of sleeplessness
and the scent of silicon on flesh
and the scent of flesh on flesh
threading a hole through me, us,
or anyone that would lean in and
just listen. Are you listening?
I’m still listening and listening
under the kerosene lamplight
of consequence and taking notes
warming up to the heart’s hundred doubts.
Passing Through McArthur Park
Peonies paint the gardens and I can still smell my sweat.
The meth not fully out of myself, myself still not
fully out of myself, and I’m laughing, I’m walking
straight ahead. Curse the day the addiction began,
which begets the question Which came first?
Curse the day I prop a pillow under my back for man.
No, no. Curse the day I couldn’t explain the question
Well, why did you start in the first place? bringing us
back to Which came first? I’m walking straight ahead
and everything in Los Angeles is lusciously green
I could mouth-out and gnaw on it. Nobody wants
to touch me in rehab and that may have to do with rules
or the detox is still happening, or the soul is still inverting
itself from a few years exiled in a beautiful desert.
The man in the street corner wants to absolve me.
The man from a few months ago, in a moody room,
also wants to absolve me but in a way that’s self-serving,
but I want to say both these acts are leading me past
defeat, meaning, I wanted saving and didn’t know how.
Nothing quite blooms under my tongue like it used to,
blame the drugs, blame the hand jerking the blade,
blame the mouth for opening itself at the wrong time
on a wrong day passing through a park with a song
sung after it. The peonies are still beautiful though,
and call it calm or clairvoyance, but immaculate
keeps the thick-wind I breathe this day. I give my shirt to it.
Anthony Aguero is the author of Burnt Spoon Burnt Honey with Flower Song Press. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice and was featured in The Slowdown. His poems have been published in Carve Magazine, Rhino Poetry, Foglifter, [PANK], and elsewhere.