Literary Orphans

L.A. Three Ways
by Michael Dwayne Smith



I woke at Hollywood Park, in bed, gardening, ten years past apocalypse to the day.  To the hour.  Traces of ruin still on her petals and leaves.  We left through the pool.  She trailed behind, rubbing glances with other men, actors or gamblers I swore, me sunburned to bust bright colors out their faces, fist against humping, donkey-face piñatas.  I made only pop music.  Reaching back for fingertips.  To pull her forward—the song you hate to love and sing along whenever it sways out a rental car radio.  Like I’d never felt fire in her hand.  Skinny legs in skimpy bikini panning across palm trees and water and inexhaustibly hungry desert eyes.  I begged her not to bloom under daylight.  She left footprints in wet concrete.  I slept on the ride back in Bunker Hill blues.


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I meet a woman on Olympic Boulevard.  Says she sees through secrets.  The secret is she wants me dead.  I have nothing else to do, so decide Sure—what the hell, and be over with quickly.  No blood, but sirens, blue-red lights.  On the ambulance ride, I try hard to make this Zen moment.  But too late.  I’m all teeth and claws predator, executioner in love.  Too late.  The rush is gone, and I sit up dead, imagining why a corpse would want to testify in court.  I want my fantasy lover back.  Death, ice-tray blue, secrets all bleeding.  I want to need a woman who says nothing, sees even less.


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I will have everything you could ever want: bling-ka-ching!  I will keep every catastrophe straight in my head.  To forget will not be an option, nor will belief in tragic confirmation.  To forgive will not even register, nor will tendency to comic anxiety.  I will till and sow and bring freeway desert showers.  Harvest oasis.  Lie down in a burned out promise casino.  Let the joy of a day just like the next glance over me, your fingers trailing down to rub and skinny one end-all, fuck-all disaster, single red and pistil blue plume giant against a grinding white smog staccato of sky, costume flying off, flesh curled in light, angel’s flight vibrant illusion of water shimmering beneath ceaseless flutter of rain shadow.  Shadows concrete, asleep, snoring through terror in L.A.


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Michael Dwayne Smith, U.C. Riverside creative writing grad, post-hippie professor, editor in chief at Mojave River Press & Review, is the subject of this sentence. He’s been awarded both the Hinderaker Prize for poetry and the Polonsky Prize for fiction, and his work appears in excellent journals like burntdistrict, Word Riot, Stone Highway Review, decomP, Heron Tree, >kill author, Heavy Feather Review, Monkeybicycle, and The Cortland Review. He lives near a ghost town in the Mojave Desert with his wife and rescued animals. Follow at


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–Art by Diana Cretu