Bio Note: I write poems while working as an in-home care provider and an unofficial manager for the rooming-house where I live. The place is near Turnbull Canyon in Whittier, so we get a lot of wildlife—coyotes, raccoons, hawks and the like—which makes it an added treat to live here. I also drink a lot of coffee. My running joke for myself is that, should I need a blood transfusion, they would probably find my blood type to be French roast.
Ode to My Neighbor's Cat, Poco
Crazy cat, have I now become your namesake? I almost went a little poco myself last week chasing you from grape vines when I spotted your raccoon-striped tail. Almost upon you, I saw you move and you had transformed into a raccoon. You were large as a German shepherd. I must have looked like the Looney Tunes coyote skidding to a stop in open space, just past a cliff edge, hovering wide-eyed in full knowledge gravity would kick in and it was going to hurt. If I were watching on television, the coyote would drop right then, and I’d be laughing. But there was no television. I spotted you watching me from beneath a bush behind me, maybe thinking even for a human I was more than a little nuts to charge that horse of a raccoon, not thinking it might charge back— and you were right. This was a Looney Tunes cartoon moment the director would’ve let roll when I’d hope he’d cut the script I put away the water rifle I used to chase you from the yard, had my come-to-Jesus moment as if Jesus Himself sat down, looked me in the eye and said I was an idiot. You were trying to tell me something from under that bush. Just to make sure I got the point, the raccoon eyed me through my screen door once I had gone inside, as he climbed my fig tree. It stayed clearing branches over an hour like a shopper after Christmas, looking for all the bargains it could take. The tree swayed back and forth, doing the hula from the clambering weight— another cartoon image in what was anything but a cartoon. I send up a white flag, cat, surrender to your small craziness. Small is for mice, of which you do your fair share of hunting. Small is, in point of fact, smart, Large is for those animals who are partial to grapes and figs, and who know full well what I look like. I hear that Looney Tunes coyote, skidding.
Gone to the Butterflies
Today, Surfridge is a Los Angeles curiosity—a modern ghost town inhabited by a rare butterfly. —Mike Anton, Los Angeles Times Because my dad had always wanted a beach house. Because, whether feeding horses and cleaning stalls as a stable boy, or writing computer code to keep a roof over our heads, he needed a view of waves and sand through a window, even if that window was in his mind. Because he’d worked since he was eight years old, had nothing to look forward to. Because, with four brothers and a sister, a wife and two boys, he needed an ocean to remind him there was more to life than himself alone on a beach—feet sinking into quicksand. So I almost lived in Surfridge, Santa Monica Bay’s navy blue shining California Dream and early 1960s real-estate boom. So my dad could have his view in front of him and his love for it to expand inside me as I inched taller. So, even though I was afraid and unsure what to say in front of him, he and I could share and have one desire in common. So we could be quiet together. Even with howling jets from LAX over us every six minutes, because the jets were passing through, and the ocean, hill and our house would always be with us. Where my folks found a place for sale. Where LAX claimed eminent domain, bulldozed 600 houses to stretch runways straight to sea, and the Environmental Protection Agency stopped LAX from laying said runways. Where soundless, streets lay sunning, snakes without a care and butterflies floated back in numbers after stinging LAX harder than bees, while buckwheat, sage brush, goldenbush, primrose and poppy displaced lawns. Where I still park near the perimeter fence engrossed with the sunset. Where I’m my dad’s son, after all.
Originally published in Synkroniciti, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2019)
©2021 Jonathan Yungkans
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