Kryssa Schemmerling

Before Hollywood

Los Angeles dissolves
beyond the frame. Behind

the rusty apparatus
of antique plots

reality leaks in
like stray light

around the edges
of early pictures.

The tracks
of the streetcar

Buster Keaton chases
in Seven Chances fade

into farms and ranches,
orange groves that scented

the air for miles vanished,
remnants of some vast hacienda.

Scrubby brown hills that stood
for everything — Ancient Rome

to Appomattox — burned
onto nitrate mined

from studio vaults. Combustible
as parched sage-brush

and chaparral. Unstable
as the fault-riven plate

of earth shifting, always shifting
beneath Hollywood.

Laurel Canyon

Your house stood top of the ridge,
just past Wonderland
Ave and the burned-out remains
of Houdini’s estate, haunted
by his wife who tried to call her husband
back from the dead, but eventually gave up:
Ten years is long enough to wait
for any man.

later your mother
in her caftan drifted
out of the canyon to meet her lover,
pausing on her way downtown to paw
through thrift store bins of pinafores
fit for a child star, so old and thin
they disintegrated against our skin.

Up there in the snake-rattled hills
everything was always poised
to go up in flames — marriages, mansions,
movie folk pitched at angles
above parched ravines
where joy-riding teens plunged, carcasses
of cars visible at bottom,
rusting among wild sage.

We held our breath
and floated like tiny William Holdens
face down in the pool
deep end shaded by jacaranda
and gasoline trees swamped
with drowned bees.

About the author

12.4 (Summer 2008)   The 2River View