Juan Mendoza: “Los angeles Odyssey”
Los angeles Odyssey
Canta me, Sing to me, Nuestra Señora, la Reina, de los Angeles,
Of that free way of twists and turns
Linking el valle de San Gabriel
With the city of Angeles.
For you stand watch above our living room door,
And are with us on the ground of thistles and thorns
While we take up our cross and toil.
Tell in memory of that land
That seems so distant but lives in my heart.
Tell of the wonders that harbor in my mind
When my mother would say
“Vamos a los angeles,”
and we would leave the peaceful grip of Pasadena.
In those days, I was a far-fighter, a young Telemachus
Separated from the City where I was born,
Wanting to experience my homeland
Without journeying there.
I would hear about the busy streets,
The mixturesque beauty; the multilayered, grotesque life.
So, I asked our Lady,
To show me a vision
And this is what she showed me:
There were seers in Macarthur Park
Who like Thersites,
Appeared bow-legged, hunched over, vulgar, and obscene
And assigned new identities
To those who paid
While prophesying for people’s future work.
I saw communities that flowed with dark-wine
Toothless, pungent body odor, and matted hair
With cardboards to lay and rest.
I approached a few people and discovered
They once held Asclepius’s scepter
And Zeus’s golden-scales.
I saw the sun-kissed skin people
Selling Sunkist soda and Sunkist oranges
Kissing their sons
On Sunset boulevard, while the sun shined hard.
I saw a short-man with black Velcro shoes,
Brown pants, a shirt with a duck wearing a hat
That reads, “I’m the Boss,”
And a blue L.A. Dodger hat, tipped to the side,
Striding along with a cart of corn
Where the Lotus Eaters meet him.
They know not the food
Feeds his family.
I saw a monster, from the dried up river of los angeles, with big hands and feet,
Standing in the middle of an alley
Of the fashion district
with colorful clothes
Blankets, backpacks, beach balls, and piñatas
While people tossed coins in his white bucket.
I saw little children with rosy-red fingers from
Flamin’ Hots and Duvalins,
Laces undone, mismatched clothes
That smelled like Mazola
Run through my mind,
As they did from one
Apartment door to another, laughing with joy.
I saw a bright red car, that seemed as long as a ship,
Pulling up at a El Pollo Loco,
And coming out a white-armed man
Holding a white and green cup of the radiant queen of sea-nymphs.
His alarm deafens and drives wild the ears of those nearby,
Except the ones with
Beeswax filled ears,
Untouched by the white cotton tips,
Too expensive to afford
For that use.
I saw a young mother
Hushing her children as they wait in line
A neighborhood clinic with
Graffiti on the wall and bars on the windows.
Mucus running down the children’s lips,
And their sweet, sticky, candy-filled hands,
Brushing their face as they wipe the salt from their eyes.
I saw Apollo,
Plaguing the City of bright lights with locusts.
“The daughter of liberty,” they yelled,
“the daughter of liberty”
must be returned to her parents
Because they have falsely erected her.
I heard the sounds of Spanish words
Coming from crowds of people.
Different shades of brown
But similar shades of clothes
Holding a green piece of paper
With the Cyclops on it above the pyramid
With Latin words they don’t understand
But with numbers they can use.
I told Our Lady,
“Truly the angels watch over this city.”
Then, she told me,
“This is why I show you these things.
Mortals like leaves,
No sooner flourishing, full of the sun’s fire,
Feeding of earth’s gifts, then they waste away and die.
Feed on the ambrosia and nectar,
If you can
Attain it without the Cyclops.
And tell generations to come
Of the god’s gifts,
Least they drink of the hemlock
And no sooner see death than their parents did.”
Then, I said, “Thank you for showing me L.A.”
And she replied,
“I showed you los angeles, yes.
But those are the people you saw in the city,
The city of Roses, Pasadena.
For angeles are everywhere.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Juan Mendoza is an assistant professor of English at Pasadena City College. He graduated with an Associate of Arts degree from Pasadena City College and went on to earn his B.A. and M.A. in English from California State University, Los Angeles. His academic interests include learning about the rhetoric in both the humanities and scientific discourse communities. Currently, Juan enjoys teaching and researching the Literature of the Bible, through its ancient near Eastern and ancient Greek and Roman literary contexts. When teaching critical thinking, he explores Plato’s theme of eros with the help of various literary theories. Juan loves to teach his students how to communicate with their authentic voice in several discourse communities.
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