San Bernardino

I.

Cruising down E Street
was just the thing
or hangin' at Seccombe Lake
and Wildwood Park

Made summer days
more bearable
under the beige encrusted skies.

wildfires
riots
mass murders
took place in that city
of awful angels

Trying to understand
the bad Spanish
Whites had created
in Del Rosa
instead of De La...


Moving from there
to a place
about a half mile
west from where
a lazy creek
fed poverty struck
Native Americans
a long, long time ago.


All just to go
to a better sports
high school
than the one
where we started.

Could have relocated
right above
the local mental hospital
into a flat-roofed house
of two stories

sharing a fence between
sanity and not


at sixteen
sometimes it's hard to figure
where one begins
and the other ends.


A bar
down on Thrid
caused too many problems
at home
too long to count
but making dinner
without a parent's permission,

one in specific,
caused more pain
than it was worth
to eat at a regular time
no matter how hungry and scared
I got.


And my brother
wore a path
down the backyard
to where a slight ridge
separated fence
from a railroad track
used
only at 9:15 p.m.


and then he went back
to a redwood fence
with nice roses
right before it

he never ran into them
usually.

Out near the place
where the hills and pass divide
we never buried the pets
in a cemetery just for them
but it was still
a touchstone
especially when one lived
in the shadow
of a puny knoll
in the center of a valley
bounded by Baldy and Gorgonio


Perris Hill
was a goal
I reached only to hide
from dissection and formaldehyde
in biology class

and a home life
where some
adults cared.

And oranges
at a second-line
carny/amusement-like show
always brought rain,
yeah,

who wants that
as a local legacy
in the years before
one is seventeen.

I won a goldfish
there once
and there was a slow crocodile
in a cheap pet store
right below
the radio station

its three towers
introduced some temporary
melodious music
into my life.

I see them now
still
and I really
don't have to look hard
to do so


II.

reality


irony


Newbury, Pacific, Arden, Echo Ct.
Golden, Holly Vista, Miranda
streets of promise
here in this town

where the vertical freeway
divides the Black side
from the White
purposely
but of course
no one ever talks about it

plainly,
but behind cupped hands
laughing lips
in the neighborhood
where I lived.


Santana, Uriah Heep, the Hollies
and Redbone
bought at the K-Mart
early musical me
although Mom's foray into
mid-sixties music at Sears
in The Inland Center
was....
sincere

although Jeff Beck is way cooller
than Donovan

and Richard Harris was the end
for me

since in youth
the yard does go
on forever.


Santa Anas and blossoms
from the lone orange backyard tree
made September
right before school started
a sneezing hell for me.


And the arrowhead in the hills
was always pointing
away from me

while planning raids and war
and death in the arid olive grove
beyond the railroad tracks
near the point at which
two waterless creeks
pulled into one
twenty feet below the freeway
that cut the north from the south part
of the city.

Winning all my sprints
in junior high
trophies of cheap construct
even then.


Snow at Sage's
at an age of ten
while in an Oldsmobile 88
was a stellar event then

even now.

But the wind-blown October skies
at sunsets of silver, cerise,
daffodil , cornflower blue
were what was needed
to keep me here
and not
to run away.


But the rain
hardly came
I would have liked it
to do so
more often.

A change of pace
from heat that holds
one down.
   


San Angelo

Half verdant
half arid
a strict borderline
easy to see----
where the hills began
the ever restless ended.

We lived on that side,
a trailer,
yet a nice blue and white one,
single-wide
angled into
north and west
by a cattle ranch,
right across the tar road,
the range was even three feet higher
than we were..

The playground,
old swings and teeter-totters
third-rate,
all next to a pleasant pure pond;
it even froze over
in mid-January
not like San Bernardino.

And Dad tried to connect
with us kids
prodded heavily by Mom.

We threw rocks
at the abandoned drive-in
at bottles;
he won
always.

And the day I saw Old Yeller
with him.
I did not cry.

I wished the rains
would continue
all February
so I could play
with my rust-red toy Pontiac
from '59
I think.

Mrs. Belvin
did not like children
from California
in her class
since Texas standards
were better,
maybe so,
but why take it out
on me
but we showed her.

Got from the slow readers
to the average ones
just before the year ended
and we moved
again
and again
and....


Not before
another trailer exploded
bad propane
I laid down
on the sidewalk
and cried.

For a bit,
I guess I was fine and free
from the early sixties
and what was surrounding me
in not always pleasing ways.

Although dust
on my brother's steak
from eating so slow
before the twister hit

and Grandma from The East
getting stuck by a bee
in the DeSoto,
brown and white,
on the drive home
from the airport

was fun

as was seeing the axe
flying through the front door window
accidently from Dad's
downstroke.

Yet,
that was
a hoot!


© Michael Cluff