South Pasadena: Rage Noir

Michael Juliani

Liquor store replaced by hair salon, pharmacy 
by high-end boutique—the little sloped 
overpasses still bridge the Orange Grove exit. 
I dangle my feet off the rails and blow 
smoke rings at the South Pas Water Tower. Under the glare
of sodium vapor lights, the floating particulate 
drywall, I can show you the dead end where 
the continent concludes. Here, the war between 
fathers and sons shrinks everyone down 
to bad posture, even the black-eyed girls 
practicing nooses with butcher’s twine 
at midnight in the yard. My father might be out there, 
summiting a spray-painted maple, or driving 
towards this city in a red Mojave sandblast 
having not seen himself for years. 

I always wanted to leave California. 
To exit the hunt he might be making 
of downtown diners and fading public parks, well-lit places
of false hope that the middle of the night 
might be holy. Now I’m wandering my diluted 
Main Street of origin in hot blue December
as wildfires blacken the hills I once damned. 
The dead end is called El Molino,
named after the corn mill swallowed
by a 19th Century flood. Austen almost died there
junior year because his brain started to heave
with the same fissure that killed 
his father; he cradled his best friend’s 
girlfriend’s head against his sternum, and whispered
the story of a pony that once dragged him
down the side of a cliff.