There Is a Poetic Side to West Hollywood (Not Just Traffic, Parking Tickets, Development and Politics)

poetry, west hollywood
An image of WeHo at night from the film “Tangerine,” by Sean Baker

Last month WEHOville missed its chance to stage a poetry contest to celebrate April as National Poetry Month. However, the event, and West Hollywood, were celebrated officially by Kim Dower, our city’s poet laureate, with “I Sing the Body West Hollywood,” a poem that she wove together from lines contributed from dozens of local residents.

Given that the local news on which WEHOville focuses has been dominated of late by a lawsuit over a City Hall scandal, debates over development, car robberies and the like, we thought that before June arrives it would be wise to remind all of us that there also is a poetic side to WeHo, which is evident in the fact that two residents have submitted their own works to us.

First is that of Carleton Cronin, a long time resident and frequent contributor of adroit commentary to WEHOville, who suggested the April poetry contest. Then there’s the contribution from Gail Heitman, inspired by a writing workshop at West Hollywood Library led by Felice Picano, the award-winning writer who lives in WeHo. Finally, in case you missed it, we are posting below Dower’s “I Sing the Body West Hollywood,” an homage to Walt Whitman that really is an homage to WeHo.  If you, dear reader, have a poem you’d like to submit, please include it in a commentary on these.

BOULEVARD

By Carleton Cronin

Driven by unseen forces,
A young man arrives in West Hollywood, a destination of which he was told by his best friend.

Dreams in a bag,
fears in his bedroll,
secrets demanding to be told,
he comes to the Boulevard
where some pilgrimages end
and some begin.
“What is this place?”
he asks himself
as he wanders along the street.
Eyes everywhere offer signals
but he does not yet understand them;
his own eyes wide open,
yet avert.
Frightening.
Enticing.
Not yet engaging.

The Mother Lode
Reads the sign.
“Mother…
Perhaps a good omen,”
he thinks and enters.
Bright faces see him
as he swigs the door wide.
A beer.
A nod.
A chat.
His bedroll is taken
by a stranger whose
smile welcomes.
His secret revealed
without a word,
The dreams he has
carried so long
touched,
shared.
Suddenly the bag is clutched.
frightened by its
rapid opening,
He picks up his bedroll,
his bag of dreams –
but leaves his secret behind
in The Mother Lode
where it is spoken of
amongst strangers who understand,
who know they will
see him again.

— Oct. 29, 2016

 

SPRINGTIME IN WEST HOLLYWOOD

By Gail Heitman

You are standing on the sidewalk
Manly chest leaning against broom stick

Have you figured out a way to hold your aching noggin and sweep?
Do you think your not- too- fab orange vest is a tell-tale sign
You’re working off some time?

You watch cars spinning wildly on SANTA MONICA BLVD. because…
TODAY they dropped you further down the line into WEST
WEST HOLLYWOOD!

“Sing out Louise!” pops in your head as you notice a gaggle of twinky-winkies hopping along.

There’s TRUNKS, FLAMING SADDLES just ahead (o my) but you haven’t gotten there yet…

Because DIONNE WARWICK has filled your SOUL as you see posers, stalkers and krispie dreams
Just walkin’ on by…
You close your tiny eyes and swing that broom to your own rhythm.
You say a “little prayer” just in time to see a bevy of tight-skinned suits
Heading into YOGURT STOP.

You wonder where “men in suits” work in a city that seems to radiate RETAIL-RESTURANTS –BARS!!
Luckily you don’t have to dwell on that much longer
BECAUSE…
BECAUSE
the sounds of CHER SOAR IN THE AIR!

“Do you believe in life after love?” … trails from the open-topped convertible
Filled with bouffant-haired tourists.
You don’t know it but these gals have been best friends since junior high, and still sing nasally off-key:

“I really don’t think I’m strong enough!”

The convertible passes
You return to that little bit ‘o sweepin’
It’s quiet for a moment or two.. tic tic tic..

Now comes the SQUEAL; your splendid ears fill with the SCREECHING halt of brakes stopping on a dime and odor of burnt tire entering nostrils.

You spot the woman standing in the crosswalk.
You drop the broom, rush to her
The errant car wizzes past you both, honking and expletives fill the air
You hold her.

I SING THE BODY WEST HOLLYWOOD

By Kim Dower

Lights twinkling, swanky, wrinkled penthouse delirium embedded in cactus hills,
high heels ablaze, steam from heated motel pools rising to kiss the night air,
I sing the body West Hollywood where I met my moonlight, my calm, waiting for me
here all along waltzing the Boulevard lined with fierce boys, transgender trailblazers,
warrior women, rainbow logos on cop cars, sun glowing through the canyons,
hugging the curves of Route 66 all before breakfast. West Hollywood you count
the beats of my heart. Poker nights and speedo-clad future husbands meet in warm
rooms bet on happily ever-afters, and for the first time I don’t feel different. Drinking
Michelob at the 4Star – Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – nights you took the trolley home,
shoe scuffs moist, how did I get from the Sunset Strip to Westwood without losing

My sanity or my clothes, sounds of memories being made to forget outside my
window, boom, pulse of the city where I come to search for zebras, sift through racks
of dusty florescent vintage gowns, where everyone I know doesn’t fit anywhere
but here where Pee-Wee Herman threw Tootsie Rolls at the audience at the Roxy,
body West Hollywood where my voice can be heard, drunk on books, palm trees, art,
comedy, food, blood of other freaks like me. “I Will Survive.” I used to wonder
why I couldn’t find myself then I realized I was never lost — one city, one pride,
voguers, drag queens piling into the street, swimming through a pool of books
as David Hockney stands near by with a towel, air lighter here, where Paul
McCartney stopped traffic at Book Soup happily signing anything handed to him

Departing The Hudson with Michelle, teetering on stilettos, reveling in our fresh
freedom, 7-Eleven bums gawking as we clear out the entire stock of Lunchables,
20-somethings cloaked in the velvet glow of the west as the hairy guy rides his bike
down Santa Monica wearing only a lime green thong, yes, Tower Records my church,
Gold Coast my karaoke paradise, work is time to play, I feel home, I feel safe, place
park, hang, tacos years before the big blue whale. Fire at Micky’s, poets lines ablaze
just sayin’ I’m reppin’ my gayborhood, headlights lining the boulevard like iced lace,
will always remember when, and can never forget now: Orange Grove, chain-
smoking with a German I met in Malaysia, flowered pants, manic stocking capped
dog walkers, I sing the body West Hollywood because it lets me color

Outside the lines, my Russian neighbor is my friend, air sweet with imagination,
dreams grow on trees, penguins, reindeer, candy and sausage, found a rock
in Plummer Park a creation living inside, we sing as gas lamps burn . . . there’s a fog
upon L.A. and my friends have lost their way while at the top of my house, the rain is
loud, sweeps the roof in waves, strong, then soft, then strong. Rain was the
soundtrack of my life. Where I’m from, it rains. Rain there is like sunshine here. The
sky would be bright blue, clear all the way to forever, then rain. I loved it. Still do.
West Hollywood its hills, skinny sidewalks, cafes, seniors, heroes, sightseers,
freedom seekers, treasures, my city with a small town feel. I sing the body
West Hollywood: my past, present & future.