Hollywood Clockwise

Natalie Shapero

After I got out of the hospital, everything felt

like the hospital. I couldn’t live

in the apartment I had planned on, not

with its green chair and low TV and stack

of mail clustered on the table like waiting-room

magazines. Not with its bedroom

set in the back, not with the walk to the back.

And I couldn’t live where it got cold. And I couldn’t

live where it got hot—I couldn’t live where you can’t

see your breath, and so you have no proof

you are alive. You’re wondering every minute.

I kept thinking of The Grapes of Wrath, the part

where Rosasharn cries, having become

convinced that God will punish her

for what she has done, and Ma, exasperated, says Git

to your proper place. God doesn’t know

who you are. Here we are, working

so hard, assuming He’ll notice and show us

some sweetness, but He can’t tell,

in this concatenation, one from the next. All He senses

is everything’s running, everything’s replicating

smooth as can be. We’re down here crossing

every t: grading the hillsides, milling

the wheat, inflating the basketballs, riding sideseat

in the circulator bus called Hollywood Clockwise.

Sunset and Western. Sunset and St. Andrews.

We’re pumping into the air His precious

six principal pollutants; we’re informing each other,

per His request, that who goes to Heaven

and who goes to Hell is more of a numbers game

than anything else. Sunset and Wilson. Sunset

and Gower. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop

Natalie Shapero is the author, most recently, of the poetry collection Popular Longing. She teaches at UC Irvine.
Originally published:
November 1, 2023


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