Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reflections of a Childhood in Los Angeles #poetry

Yesterday, I reviewed Patricia Neely-Dorsey's fascinating book: Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia where she illustrates in poetry what it was like to grow up in the Old South. I was so inspired by her poetry, I penned down a few lines from my life.

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.

School Zones
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.


  1. It is so wonderful that you have decided to write your childhood memories in poems!
    I am so honored that my poems could inspire you in any small way!
    Keep it up !
    You have made my poetry month !

  2. Awesome poems! I've enjoyed both yours and Patricia's poems. Keep up the good work! The world needs to hear both of your voices.

    1. Hi Christy, thanks. I lived in L.A. until the early '80's. Knew all of it from Sunset Strip to J. Town, Venice beach to Plaza De La Raza. Patricia's writing brought back memories. :)

  3. Rachell, I'm a fan of Patricia, and she had mentioned of the glowing review you gave her poetry. It's very special that her poetry was the prompt for you to write about your childhood.

    Interesting thing too, I see the background of your blog. The gate appears open, and it's almost like
    the birds have now been freed.
    May your shared poems be a freeing of your childhood.
    There is even a part of me that wishes I could reach
    out and give that little Rachell a GREAT BIG HUG. a

    Ohhhhhhhhh I can.... {{{{Rachell}}}}

    1. Thanks Debra. I'm now a fan of Patricia too. Her poetry is so real. The gate is closed, but I well remember jumping that gate. See that smooth rail at the top? That's the one you can go over without losing a finger. I have a friend whose ring got caught on the top [not on that gate but another fence]. We didn't have video surveillance cameras back then.