Issue 29 | Spring 2022

Long Beach Summer

Another bang to worry us at night.
White and gold or red and blue will tell:
some fireworks across the empty highway
or something darker. Past the open window,
open ocean lies beyond the cranes
and steel containers stacked like children’s blocks.
Sunset was pink again against the smog,
and cruising Gateway Bridge, the cables narrow
to a point. Farther west means drowning
beyond the port in dirty shallow water.

This is the end of the journey on a map,
and how much further than anticipated.
Atypical, the lot of us. Success
becomes us when the chips are on the table.
No way that we can lose when we’re so far
from home. It feels like last week, whirlwind times
of necessary drinking through the money
when trains still ran to three AM on Fridays.
Meandered through recumbent alleys laughing
at the shadows. Cross the street for no man.
Think we haven’t seen this shit before?
Chest pounds like someone trying to escape.
Winter: fleece coat and scarf wrapped tight like fists
closed for warmth. Each step across the world
a fresh impression. Delighted in the feel
of someone new and nameless in the moment.
Encompassed one another sloppy. Paused
to make eye contact, Are you with me here?
Course not weirdo. Miles away. She knows
blue eyed and snowy places built for dark
months half the year, and yet her lips are tender
without resentment.
                                     Before we’d been outside
the islands of our shitty neighborhoods,
we weren’t angry. Only when the sun
beat down we dripped with sweat, revealed tanned chests
in the backyard, and played the radio.
Parents sold the Buick to pay rent,
took the bus all summer, should’ve walked,
the fat kid eating ramen with hot dog.
They say those were the times we can’t forget
as if nostalgia should apply to any
childhood. Is it that simple? Bootstrap hauled
at least a couple generations up
a roller coaster journey. Hold our breaths
just waiting to go off the rails again.
The arc of history has one direction
the social studies teacher said to us.
The quarter pipe. The 1 over an X.
Limit can approach infinity.
Go vertical forever. We know better.

Filed under: Poetry

Elijah Mendoza is a Mexican American poet living in Long Beach, California. He has taught at George Washington University, Baylor University, Tarrant County College, and and Texas Christian University. His poems have appeared in various journals such as the Rio Grande Review, New Mexico Review, Broadkill Review, and the Anthology of Tennessee poets. He’s interested in exploring traditional verse through contemporary language and subject matter. He’s always loved a well written sonnet.