Poetry Pick: Love after the Riots

In June I had the pleasure of hearing Juan Felipe Herrera read at Seattle Arts and Lectures. What an immense presence! What radiance and joy and generosity! This past week, I read his book Love after the Riots, from Curbstone Press.

I couldn’t not think of the Rodney King riots–but, as the title says, this is after the riots, or after and during, and so much is going on. The narrative is fractured–each poem is titled with a time (7:30 pm / Thursday, 12:01 am, 1:03 am / Friday), but I’m not counting on a minute-by-minute chronology–there could be time zones or days (weeks) in between. Are we in L.A. or Paris or Italy or Cuba? People come and go through imagery that makes me think of Neruda. That surprise. All of it bundled in poems that are compact, like notes in brief moments.

Here is a sample poem:

9:20 pm

Back up, Marga talks.
I drive against my best intentions.
Santa Monica, Venice–Albert King on the box.

By the sea & the vices of families
gone asleep in the smoke. 5000 lire
and she does not look at my face.

She says I look like Gregory Peck. The auto
swerves up the alley. She lives alone, now.

Stop for coffee. Read the Times Mirror.
Her skirt, my pants. The wheel stays
alone in the night shade. Silence,
a stone, tiny in her boot heel.