Riots and Roses

April is coming to end, and as well, National Poetry Month. I hope you enjoyed the poetry posts. Since this will probably be the last one for a while and because it’s no fun having your own blog if you don’t showcase your own stuff, a couple of poems from yours truly today.

On this date 19 years ago “not guilty” verdicts in the trial of the policemen involved in Rodney King’s videotaped beating set off six days of riots here in Los Angeles. The largest in U.S. history. I remember the following morning going up on the roof of my apartment building, which has a spectacular view, and seeing the fires burning all across the Los Angeles basin. The sky to the east was a solid wall of black smoke, as if hell’s darkest storm was moving in.

Here is the poem I wrote some time later, after things had cooled down and the National Guard was no longer patrolling the neighborhood and life had gotten back to something approaching normal:

in the city of angels

el pueblo grande
boils and bubbles
like a brea pit
fear and anger
rise from the pitch
like hungry spirits

incendiary questions:
why’d the cops beat him?
how come they got off?

sacrificial fires are lit
on asphalt altars
the hungry spirits are fed

the night cries
no justice no peace

and when the smoke clears
in the char of morning days later
what is revealed?

only mammoth humanity
stuck in the tar

© 1992-2011 dmriley

By the time you read this, the Royal Wedding should be over, and I say thank goodness for that. Now we can get back to obsessing about Charlie Sheen, or someone equally psychedelic. Needless to say, I did not watch the wedding, nor did I watch the last one with Charles and Diana. Unimpressed as I am with the Royal Family, at first I was equally blasé about Princess Di. Over the years, though, she did come to grow on me, for purely lecherous reasons (after all, she was an attractive woman), and partly because I felt sorry for her. Yet, in spite of any empathy I had, I couldn’t help but also feel that she was essentially a victim of her own desire. It’s an old story. Musicians and actors and other would-be celebrities longing for fame and fortune and when they get it, they can’t handle the pressure. There had to be some part of her that wanted to be a princess, that fantasized about one day becoming the Queen. As the famous Chinese saying goes, be careful what you wish for . . .

I did get up early and watch her funeral. By that time, I had something invested in her story and the part she played in her own tragedy aside, it seemed clear to me that the Royal Family had abused her horribly. And I’m not embarrassed to say that I shed a few tears.

I wrote this poem that same day, and rereading it now, I think I must have been influenced by the song Elton John sang, a reworking of “Candle in the Wind”:


a rose
is cut

no more petals
in a grail
of eyes

shall we kiss
the hand of immortality
that plucked her up
& set her upon devotion’s throne

shall we bow
to all the mornings
she tried to save herself
from the life
that devoured her

princess dreams put her
back against the wall
which is perhaps preferable
to the silence of empty bedrooms

shall we cut some roses
to see
how exquisitely
they fall
our fascinations

how achingly
they wither
in the mad dog sun

© 1997-2011 dmriley


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