Imperial Beach remains remote and intolerable

I walk around and smile, enjoying it while it lasts

Bill Mohr was born in Norfolk, VA, and grew up there and in Imperial Beach.
  • Bill Mohr was born in Norfolk, VA, and grew up there and in Imperial Beach.

1967: “My World Fell Down”

  • Imperial Beach remains remote and intolerable,
  • Both in memory and all its stammering desire.
  • My radio flourished with L.A.’s visionary decibels.
  • I feared its LSD as friendly fire.
  • The hippies seemed indulgent to a fault,
  • None of them theirs, and if the Asian wars
  • Demanded disobedience, was not their cult
  • Supreme in tantalizing escapist doors?
  • And then “My World Fell Down.” Heard only once,
  • Its interlude of cosmic comedy
  • Sufficed to wake me up and remedy
  • My isolation from a hip scene’s clowns.

The Missing Sock

  • Surely it lurks
  • somewhere near.
  • I love you the same
  • but as never before,
  • the way socks stick
  • in the crevices of
  • towels, shirts,
  • and underwear,
  • hot and slick
  • from the dryer,
  • shaken loose
  • to be together.

Locked Ward

  • Curled up, three to a room, curtained apart,
  • the patients are allowed no bedside phones,
  • so when my cell phone scats, my mother asks,
  • “Who’s that?” “Your youngest daughter, Joni.”
  • The favorite of six. I don’t blame them
  • for wanting me to leave. In halls,
  • the others’ wheelchairs prowl like limousines
  • no longer hunted down by paparazzi.
  • One veteran plops his kit bag down,
  • then kneels, adjusts his rolled up cuffs,
  • huts up attention, genuflects to tie
  • shoelaces once again. Guard duty,
  • he must think, from 20:00 to 0600.
  • My sister ends her call. I offer avocado, ripe
  • banana, sweet potatoes. “Butter! Butter on
  • my sweet potato. Get some from the refrigerator.
  • What do you mean — there isn’t one?” Her nurse
  • comes by with stupefying medicine.
  • “If no one visits, when can they go outside
  • and let the sunlight ease their stifled skin?”
  • They don’t. The recreation room entombs.
  • An orderly taps the password code.
  • Again,
  • I breathe the tainted air, belched from a refinery
  • two miles away, enlisting port and highway truck.
  • The larger ward, locked too, though masked;
  • I walk around and smile, enjoying while it lasts.

Bill Mohr was born in Norfolk, VA, and grew up there and in Imperial Beach, CA. After moving to Los Angeles and publishing books under the imprint of Momentum Press, he got a Ph.D. in literature from University of California, San Diego, and has taught at California State University, Long Beach, since 2006. His collections of poetry include a bilingual edition, Pruebas Ocultas (Bonobos Editores, Mexico, 2015). His account of West Coast poetry, Holdouts: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance 1948–1992, was published in 2011 by the University of Iowa Press. He has also edited or co-edited three anthologies of Los Angeles or West Coast poets.

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