Metta for Winter Solstice in Los Angeles
by Kenji C. Liu
We cannot see this place being the default
for much longer.
Winter wears quotation marks. This is
a nation made of air quotes.
A bat signal breaks the dark, burning
fallow walls: CAL TRANS RENT THESE HOMES NOW!
Our coiled, feathered bodies circle the disaster
of touch. Use the big fork or little?
A receipt sneaks onto the tablecloth.
At no time was the cost of being civilized conveyed.
The warp and sway of an inflated snowman.
An unknown worker drew his smile to spec.
I wake crushing the nurse’s hand and
they give me more gas.
I wake because I can’t stay
where I am.
We promise to sublimate for each other,
not for the market of bodies.
Our mad pond of scientifically impossible
weather. The officials disapprove, officially.
We refuse to be transcendent.
Having grown up in New Jersey, winters in Los Angeles are annual reminders of the strangeness of where I am. This is a series of vignettes in which I consider many intersecting fragments—the affordable housing crisis, living in Tongva and former Mexican territories, the winter nights that swallow up the daylight hours, and not an ounce of snow—which all feel like improbable contradictions to me. On top of this, the default, capitalist orientation of our entire "civilization" is a gigantic contradiction, and something that cannot possibly last for much longer. This poem is a metta (loving-kindness) prayer towards our process of waking up, and hopefully soon.