Growing up in Los Angeles, in the heat of the 1960's and 70's, my experiences were much different than Patricia's. I'm not much of a poet, but here's my Reflections of A Childhood in Los Angeles.
Watts is Burning
Neighbors mill in the street.
The sky is tinted red;
The rioters march south,
straight down Avalon Boulevard.
Will the barricades stop them?
My parents have no guns.
I rest assured in my neighbors.
They have shotguns and hunting rifles.
"Shoot them all, they won't get past."
I'm comforted by their guns.
The night sky glows red.
We hear sirens and shouts,
but in the morning it's all calm.
Screaming in the Smog
Skies so brown we choke
Don't breathe deep,
your lungs will burn.
Hot blacktop skins many knees
Broken beer bottles on the street.
An underpass lurks on our way home from school.
Dark, dangerous, smelly like pee
We kids go in groups.
We run through and scream
To scare away child molesters.
We'd blow out their eardrums
with our piercing shrieks.
Bravely, we emerge on the other side.
Our lungs in pain, but we survived.
No Postcards Here
Graffiti sprawls on cement brick walls.
Barb wire rolls across highway signs.
Don't wear bandanas, neither red nor blue
And don't get caught out after dark.
Friends are jumped in fights in the alley.
Drive-by shootings scatter bullets in our schoolyard.
A man hangs himself on the pole climb bars.
And other kids stay home on Crips and Blood day.
We hug the buildings, ready to drop
at the pop pop pop of gang warfare.
There's no track running for P.E. that day
Stay in the gym to play sit down volleyball
and crab walk soccer
while police circle the school.
Bungalows are lowrider territory.
Smoking weed and sharpening knives.
Jocks rule the central quad.
The talk of the day, who got shot
and who got beat, and who got robbed on the bus that day.
If you're a nerd, it's to the library you go.
During recess, lunch, and after school.
Or hang at the counselor's office and file paperwork.
You won't get beat up helping Ms. Hart.
Guys in f*-trucks cruise the streets
Duck into the liquor store to miss their hoots.
Come out with pop sticks and candy bars.
Palm trees wave high in the sky,
An airplane flies trailing smoke.
But down below, Pilots rule.