The minivan’s A/C died just in time for the Christmas heatwave of 85+ degrees. As I ferried us home from a visit to the ocean’s cool and calming vastness (all windows dooooown), I remembered my one and only Christmas poem, which includes (apart from Christmas scotch, a hungry coyote and an ill-looking full moon) a palm tree I once saw burning in a supermarket parking lot. For this California native, it is absolutely a tiny bit horrifying, watching a palm tree burn. They are such emblems here—mascots, well studied still life, living flagpoles heralding flip-flops and shorts and sunglasses year-round, dear, lanky constants—except, of course, when Santa Ana winds rip the dead fronds from the trees, cartwheeling them to Earth where they (quite heavy in death) dent the hoods of cars, terrify cats and dogs and unfortunate pigeons and hopefully don’t kill anyone.
From Full Howling Moon
…California’s brittle December:
swells, surfboards, red skin, Christmas BBQ
next to a slide-dunked swimming pool
blooming algae, all palms standing by—city logo,
The Hollywood Hills Gelson’s Market rescues
its delicacies when a parking lot palm tree’s head
by a derelict power line, resembling
a single birthday candle,
Hello, New England? Hello, DC? Hello, Dear Baltic.
LA calling. Keep your troikas and furs and ploughs,
but send all bells and much of your ice.
The trees are on fire. The palm trees are on fire.
It’s December the 24th. I am…
O my longing, my
longing…And here it comes,
cataract-riddled eye rising lazily
over shuffling Pacific. We carol
(rote, stoned, brown) from Hollywood
to the post-eutrophic canals
of Venice Beach, in a Santa Ana twisting
in from desert, snuffing
scented candles in wide open windows
(O frankincense, O myrrh)
rippling cranberry punch
in the communal wassail bowl.
We fear nothing
coasting through our toasty season.
We enjoy our lighter shade of blonde,
our token brown, parties, dancing strangers
lit by hard-boiled moon—pitted sadsack
belly up over fuss (O dead
thing). Stars bloom…
Etc. This poem was written back when I was bold enough to write a line like post-eutrophic canals. Now? Even if Venice’s canals are post-eutrophic, I would never actually write post-eutrophic. I would write: alligator water, or: puddled hilarity, or: rotting batik. Okay, maybe not rotting batik. But I cop to the others.
O how we evolve.
Happy almost you-know-what. And if there’s anything else you’d like me to throw into italics, feel free to share.
Also: Save the palms!
P (shut up and drink yer Christmas punch) B