Psalm and Lament for Los Angeles


On the streets of Hawthorne I sat down and wept.
Yes, wept as I remembered it.
I came to the asphalt country of my childhood,
To revisit the precincts of memory.
I walked the old boulevard, where the shops
Had been condemned and demolished.
I passed the bankrupt mall, defaced and boarded.
And all was vacancy and squalor.
Where was the drugstore where my parents met?
And the neighborhood park with its Indian palms?
Where was the Plaza Theater with its neon beacon
Taller than a church spire?
I wandered the silent ruins of my city.
What was there to sing in a strange and empty land?



If I forget you, Los Angeles, let my eyes burn
In the smoggy crimson of your sunsets.
If I prefer not the Queen of the Angels to other cities,
Then close my ears to the beat of your tides.
Let me stand on the piers of Malibu, blind
To the dances of the surfers and the dolphins.
But, O Los Angeles, you dash your children against the stones.
You devour your natives and your immigrants.
You destroy your father’s house. You sell your daughters to strangers.
You sprawl in the carnage and count the spoils.
You stretch naked in the sunlight, beautiful and obscene—
So enormous, hungry, and impossible to pardon.