Pacoima was immaculate & panoramic over
long distance calls. But there were no guavas,
jocotes, mangoes or rivers nearby when we arrived.
No chickens or turkeys as pets. No rain when
the sun was out, just oranges & chapped lips.
The mountains were barren & the sky was sluggish
with a brown haze that seemed to leave only when
the rains flooded the streets, which the kids river tubed
down to the freeway underpass. Neighbors
had well-groomed lawns fenced in by cedars,
geraniums & brick walls that earthquakes would
later demolish. Others had front yards patched
with car parts or aluminum swimming pools.
Next door, they hid the marihuana with trash bags
when cops drove by. On the chicken wire fence,
a grapevine grew that the Italian couple before us
left behind. The backyard, where we hunted, swung
in rust swing sets, & uncovered the ruins of a grill
under a hill of broken branches, was uneven
with elephant grass, rocks, olive tree switches,
sliced cacti, & avocados mom & dad kept
trying to plant. The front had vines, a rubber tree,
a dirt lawn scattered with rotten walnuts, a banana
plant that never produced bananas, rows of roses
that seldom bloomed, aloe vera for swollen joints,
ruda for cramps, & yerba buena for stomachaches.
By the time we moved, far more parrots had escaped
from Busch Gardens to the branches of the eucalypti
& white sapotes. There were more birds of paradise,
chayote vines, bananas, avocados, pomegranates,
barking dogs, wrought iron gates, pickup trucks, used
compact cars, converted garages, & concrete sidewalks.