Older than the sidewalk cracks and street, settled on his flaking porch, he remembered the Valley when it was trees. “I’m ready to not be old,” he said as I passed by. His eyes were uncommonly blue, for an old man. He said: “They published my poem.” I was on my way to school, about to not stop. “Once I get the book, I’ll read it to you.” * The book cost $49.95. He held up the flyer they sent. But he was proud, so I said nothing. * “Hallo,” he’d say, waving from his chair. “Hello,” I’d say, not wanting to be rude. Lovely day, awesome morning, top of the world, hello, hallo, have a good day. Joe was great-uncle wrinkled, and I had class to get to, I was a Senior. But everyone should talk to a grandpa sitting on a porch. * He asked if I wanted to read his poem. The book was thick with cheap paper. I was late but said yes and the poem was about apples and I didn’t have to make something up. It was worth more than the book. “Do you like it?” he asked. “I want to read it to my English class.” Joe gave me his book. He said to be careful with it. “I never got published before.” * We sat watching cars speed down Oxnard Street, heads moving left to right then back again, ready. * Joe made coffee and I listened to stories. He voted for Roosevelt and Nixon, twice — “bet you no one’ll ever tell you that!” — He didn’t like his grand-daughter. He said I wouldn’t either. “Uppity. Ugliness is inner.” He said if you wanted to get a pothole fixed in LA, put a movie-camera next to it and the mayor would come fill it himself. He so near the end talked to me so near the beginning, said we were bookends on God’s shelf. His hands trembled, so I carried the cups. “That’s what age does, shakes us loose from the inside out.” * The Oxnard Street poet and an uppity kid who learned to listen to words warmed by coffee and care and age.
More poetry here.