from California Tanka Diary


Meandering through hill-top neighborhood

of splendid old mansions, I loiter at wrought-iron gates

picketing the senator’s home.


“Where does California’s produce go?”

shoppers ask in supermarkets stocked

with Mexican avocados and Chinese garlic.


Parking in front of the apartment block,

the produce truck driver whose horn announces

his arrival with “La Cucaracha.”


Visiting with us in Los Angeles, our friend

went out for a sunny walk; returned with

wrists bound, misapprehended by cops.


At night our tidy clean green park is locked

to keep out rough sleepers who bed down on sidewalks

next to shopping carts full of rubbish.


Standing his ground in a pair of elegant

leather shoes, offering each passer-by

a chance to buy the homeless newspaper.


Within territorial boundaries of

contested city blocks, yellow fire hydrants

are marked with graffiti signatures.


A homeless woman spends her days collecting

odd scraps of paper, then sits in front

of the all-night drugstore, poring over them.


Confronting the suspect, police use lethal

force against a disorderly mountain

lion trespassing in a private yard.


When you see me walking in the neighborhood,

stopping to admire your garden, I might be

composing a tanka in my head.

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