Last night I dreamt of an Inland Empress
Majestically wearing her winter sky,
A sapphire gown so clear you forget
The wrath of smoggy summers with
Her topaz sunset fires alight
On windshields of the packed-in-tight,
Following frantic freeways home
Just before she sleeps at night.
And she brings down the California sun—
With impossible palms reaching up to the sky,
Like hundred-foot arms stretching out to the gods
Of citrus groves and street facades.
In troubled sleep, I wake to stand
At the corner of Panorama where
In decades past I waited for
The traffic to pass
On my way to school,
When I walked alone—
Thirty minutes to Central;
Thirty minutes home.
Of course, I could have turned to find
Our old apartment by the tracks
Where trains arrived with airhorn blasts
And passed with shaking angry weight,
Union Pacific giants of freight,
Iron roaring north to south.
I used to worry I’d be hit by one
On the way to the mall if I stood too long,
Walking the ties of creosote wood
That got me there quicker than Olivewood.
So, I made an offer of pennies laid out
Before them on the beams,
Watching their wheels smash them flat
To copper foil and promising that
I’d hurry past the blind curve where
There’s no escape should one come for me,
Roaring down the line it screams,
To find me standing there.
Or I could wait out Fall’s afterglow
When it’s cool enough for me to go
Hiking up Mount Rubidoux
And touch the base of its concrete cross,
A sentinel symbol watching out from above
The Santa Ana River trickling below
And the Evergreen graveyard’s lost.
Or perhaps Magnolia might take me to
RCC if it’s out for good,
When the college quad is free at last,
And science labs and classroom desks,
Through windows seen, have all been left
By students of disillusioned degrees
Advancing to lives of practicality.
But a second home is waiting for me,
Down the hill, to the library,
At the center of the city’s pride:
The Mission Inn where ghosts reside,
Who watch from towers as I pass by,
Remembering to forget the looks implied,
For they’re no happier on their side.
But, alas, my sleep is lifting now.
The nightly visions settling down,
And I don’t know where to wait until
The daylight breaks to wake and kill
The spell that holds Pachappa Hill,
And the apartments where I used to live,
Along the tracks, near the school,
To the library, and up the hills
Of brush and rock I used to hike
When I was Edward the Young—
And Riverside’s wayward son.