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Jim Natal is the author of three poetry collections: Memory and Rain (Red Hen Press, 2009); Talking Back to the Rocks; and In the Bee Trees, which was a finalist for the 2000 Pen Center USA and Publisher's Marketing Association Ben Franklin Awards. He also is the author of three chapbooks (Explaining Water With Water, Oil on Paper, and The Landscape from Behind) and two limited-edition chapbooks (A Collector of Infinity and Rain in L.A.). A multi-year Pushcart Prize nominee (including 2011), his poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies, such as the recent New Poets of the American West and Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer’s Disease. After a 25-year career as a creative executive with the National Football League, he received his MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles in 2005. He teaches creative writing, curates literary events, and with his wife, book artist Tania Baban, runs Conflux Press, a publisher of quality chapbooks and trade books (www.conflux He lives in Los Angeles.


Thursday morning

This is a dialogue town,
hard-boiled repartee in a soft-boiled climate.
The mountains wisecrack to the desert,
while the Santa Anas, the red winds,
wring their raspy hands, snivel and sweat
like Peter Lorre waiting for a call on a
black phone from the fat, accented ocean,
the brains behind the operation.
Here, nobody goes out when it rains.
Authors read to the backs of empty chairs.
The movies talk to themselves.
Does the whole city steal
that rare chance to stay home, to listen
to weather spackling the windows,
“So What” softly in the background,
drink and shrink the stack of magazines
beetled beside the bed? Are they all
afraid of hydroplaning on the 405,
upturned SUVs and jack-knifed trailers,
highway patrol cops in yellow slickers
erecting shrines of flares?
Or do people think they’ll melt
like the wicked witch of the coastal west,
leave nothing but a grounded broom
and a puddle on an empty soundstage as if
it’s 1939 in Culver City? Oh, man,
it’s raining munchkins and there are evil
clouds of flying monkeys rumbling in.



Mexico is bleeding people.
I am opening the sky for them.
Some smell of ochre earth.
Some are calloused as paws.
Others just refract light.
A few speak only in breezes.
I can taste the fires
in the kitchens they left behind.
Their cold matches
rattle like dried insects in my mouth.

Martín crossed near Patagonia, Arizona.
I did not open the sky for him.
Instead, I parted the river.
I walk along its banks waiting
for ocotillo to bloom; the manzanita
has such red branches…even now.
Only a pendejo or a bruja can see
beyond the chain link and flowers
with petals so large
they hide us from la migra.

You know what they always say:
El viento sobre la tierra tumba muertos.”
Ah, yes, this land’s remorseless wind
does blow away the dead.
Sunshine spills melancholy
as Martín collects rattlesnakes
and puts them in his pockets.
Puma won’t sit beside him
when they stop for water—
he will stand only, tell his stories
from a distance, speak of neon cities
in some future north where it will rain
sticky money on them all.
Their haggard map points the way
to intersections with no corners.
But that’s the way it is
once you pass la linea.
The gash is 2,000 miles long
and all the barbed wire in the world
cannot suture the wound.



Out east on the desert freeway,
after the rain blowing in from the coast
had been blocked by the mountains doing their work,
the sky was fearless and the sun, half arisen now,
cast shadows of slow-whirling wind turbine blades
across all eight lanes, passing over each car
like the shadow of a hunting hawk.
A man in front of a prefab church
changed letters on the sidewalk marquee.
“God is waiting…” it began but I went by too fast
to see if He was waiting for me.


All poems from Memory and Rain, Red Hen Press, 2009

© 2012 Jim Natal


Jim Natal & Fuji

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