First Time in L.A. by Archana Sridhar
The moon-faced old man hauls my suitcase
Into the underbelly of the Buzz Lightyear Disney Express
The velcro of his single black glove frays with each smile.
I’m startled by the lavender-crayon flowers of the jacaranda
Creeping shyly over washed-out stucco walls that
Separate highway from houses, speed from sprawl.
Neon signs spell “HIS NIBS CIGS” in the strip mall window.
A fringe of Italian cypress peeks out from behind
Layers of adobe tile that hide the city’s shame.
At the underpass, a man roasts brown under the sun,
Wears a thinning undershirt with nylon shorts.
Broken bottles and emptied plastic drums roll down the gravel hillside.
Hands on hips, he inspects his vast desert empire.
My mind dissolves the porthole of my bus window and
I scream to him, “Why make camp here?”
But in the breezes of that last day in April, no cover for miles,
He does not even look up at me, at the witnesses
Careening towards a smudged out skyline.
Archana Sridhar is a university administrator, poet, and mother living in Toronto. A graduate of Harvard Law School and a former Fulbright Scholar, Archana's poetry focuses on the themes of race, meditation, and trauma. Archana loves visiting any place where the staff have to dress up in period costumes.