On Leaving California
“Look, I admit I came to Paris to escape American Provincial, but that doesn’t mean I’m
ready for French Traditional”
– Audrey Hepburn, Charade
I want to drive to Big Sur one day
and wake up in the Mojave the next.
I want to compare the virtues of chicken breeds,
to debate where the price of avocados is best,
and whether we should pay taxes to keep the weatherman.
I want to suck the ice from a gin mojito
while my sisters and I watch our children grow, they
who will represent every continent of the world.
I want to stop fever-dreaming of rattlesnakes and mountain lions,
of Santa Ana winds and Indian summers,
of levees bursting and Yosemite smoking,
of LA thirsting and Oakland burning.
I want to shake out my boots in the morning
(you must always kill the black widow)
just to watch a Cattle Dog run beneath a soggy purple sky.
I want to lie about sparing mosquitos
to Buddhist monks in Berkeley,
and knick the secrets of gold-panning
off a harpist in Nevada City.
I want to return to my lolo’s house in Compton,
which was bulldozed long ago,
to hear the old aunts’ sharp lilting twangs
which outrang the gunshots at night.
I want to climb the walls
of the midnight garden of my second tongue,
to find the tamale woman,
to taste cinnamon in fried beans,
to say well, for a hapa-mestiza, ¿qué onda?
I want to walk to the Sunday market with my mother,
who sees the faces of granddaughters in lemons
and grandsons in melons,
and I want to stuff my suitcase
with the honey, the wine—the toothpaste!
which are all local, local, local!