Issue Ten - October 2006

On Ocean Avenue

by Ande Finley

The palms on Ocean Avenue poke
the sky, swishing their clatter
against fat clouds, against pale stucco,
bleached out by salty neglect,
against the edge of this sleepy beach town
that no longer remembers itself.
Joggers pass us, serious bikers and
skaters with kneepads and nose rings,
early morning power walkers, nannies
from the barrio walking the dogs.
Crossing the highway, looking out
to the surf, we spiral around the bend
and there's that man again wrapped
in a faded plaid sleeping bag between
cement pylons, staking out his claim.

The beach is forlorn, there's a sign
warning us not to swim, but we let the waves
soak us anyway, hungry to feel the salty slap
on our pale winter skin and dig our feet
in the undertow.

With my back to the ocean, I feel giddy
looking at the sentinel palms
lined up on the skyline like broomsticks
reversed by some incantation
and planted here on a whim,
the irresistible skinny trunks that
go on forever, the sprouting caps
from a fantasy created by children
or clowns, or maybe a god laughing
the whole time.

We leave the beach and hike up
the steep wooden steps covered
in eucalyptus droppings from the
grove that lines the hill, sturdy caps
offering their pungent gift
to any quick, careless foot.
All the streets are littered with
this beautiful debris, serrated
golden chunks of palm bark,
huge broom-shaped leaves and
I can't resist the urge to play with
these giant toys, to take in the smell,
the exotic feel of distant places, knowing,
sadly, this tree trash is as common here
as pine cones where I come from.

Past the tattooed skateboarders, the
stately Japanese couple, women in
Gucci sweats, panhandlers burned to
a leathery brown and the sun is heating
up now, our bones are starting to hum,
it feels like summer but we've got a month
till spring and tomorrow we go back to the rain.

That final night, I tilt deep
into the star-driven night,
along the impossible length
of three palms, where the full moon
rides the desert sky
and angels dance with a city's dreams
in those leafy crowns.

©Ande Finley