Tarzana Is My Heroine

a poet considers the imaginary and reality of Tarzana


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Tarzana Is My Palimpsest

Since my mother died five years ago January, I’ve criss-crossed Tarzana scores of times. If my car had left marks (like lain rubber), the town would be a Pollock of lines, angles, and loops everywhere I’ve driven.

If my tires had been dipped in paint, the town could in fact be painted red, with the red and black lines all tangled up.

 

Tarzana Is My Palimpsest

Tarzana Is My Palimpsest (Coco Owen)

 

 

The vectors and loops I’ve driven add texture and depth–but they write over that page recording my mother’s last illness, which began Christmas Day of 2007 and ended when she died less than a month later.

The day she died was one of those freakishly unseasonable winter days. The gas-jet blue January sky was unclouded. After she was gone, something like a film of plastic fell over the board-and-care home and over her room, where I stayed with her body until the mortuary people came.

Once I stopped crying all the time, went out for groceries, cooked dinner, and paid the bills again, I started to make tracks up and down Ventura Boulevard as I retraced the page recording her death. Imagine my car as a huge paintbrush, as

I drove

south on Mecca, west on Wells

north on Corbin, east on Burbank

south on Lindley, west on Oxnard

south on Wilbur, east on Ventura

& up Nestle past Palora

to _________  [unspeakable street ]

where she died.

I started rewriting the story of my life by reviewing her life-story. Her life and her death starred in an elegiac group of poems I wrote, because I could keep her alive there–if only in the past tense.

[She wouldn’t like that I’m writing about her.]

I write about Tarzana, though the errands I run, the walks I take, the bike rides, further obscure that page in my mind that recorded her death. It’s become a palimpsest text–layers and layers of posthumous scribble.

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Tarzana Is What Paradise?

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Tarzana Is What Paradise?

It is a finite neon thing;
A flame-out orange & spiky thing.
I think it is a final thing
I’m coming to understand.

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Paradise, acetylene torch,
Lights us up but casts a shadow

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Taking the shape of possible fates
Unrecognized as our own doing.

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Tarzana is a paradise
Of Canada geese & lost dogs.
It is jungle-fevered profit made
Off twice-removed celebrity.

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What paradise has lost its birds?
Has busy streets, but empty stores;
Not enough parks? These late fall
Days bring forth something amazing,

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Something I didn’t realize before:
Birds-of-paradise die. Fall will
Come for what’s ready and what’s not,
For the citrus and the root crops.

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It comes to the year-round summer
Spoiling us for anywhere else.
Our heaven is a tropical
Bloom wilting in the desert weather

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Of someone’s paradise idea.
Whoever planted these flowers
Forgot they die. So did I.
Tarzana is my told-you-so.


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the word ‘July’ (Diane Ward)

“I choose this word to indicate that, this to indicate this, I ignore the words absolution, contentment, July because they’re not in my world. These have nothing to do with a view from a window. This isn’t urban writing, though it could be. Tomorrow, in five minutes, absolution, contentment, and July may exist for me . . .”.

Diane Ward, from her essay “Being Another — Locating In the World” (A*bacus/1986)

(quoted in Jacket 2. http://jacket2.org/article/never-without)