there are 27 miles between east la and encino
I never liked Los Angeles,
Even though I’d never been.
Warmed by the frigidity of New England,
The grids of the eastern seaboard,
and cities bookended by rivers,
I had no desire to go westward.
But E-li-za-bet taught me how to pronounce Án-gel-es,
Count back vowels,
And draw the line between East LA and the rest of the world
With carro on one side
And coche on all others.
And when Gabriel taught me tikkun olam and tzedakah,
he pointed to where the valley was indented.
“Just north of Santa Monica,” he’d said.
And when he sang, smiling, in his dining room on Friday night,
I knew that he had done so so many Fridays before me,
and that those Fridays with me were surrounded by those without.
I can recite Spanish colloquialisms,
But they are not mine.
And I can ask the four questions,
But I’ll probably never understand the depth of their answers.
But I’ve grasped for these cultures all my life,
In spite of my absence from them
And found solace in their people
Because they are peoples of flight.
I’ve never been to Mexico,
Nor have I been to Israel,
But I can’t imagine they’re too different
If their respective peoples have both faced exodus.
I’ve still never been to Los Angeles,
because I’ve never need to flee
(After all, I’m not Mexican or Jewish),
But I still can’t fathom the proximity of East LA
Nor can I fathom the distance.
Maybe that’s why I never liked Los Angeles