26 November 2013
LIVING IN THE DEEP WEST
In memory of Wanda Coleman (1946-2013)
SoCal and what you called the Deep West keel
over without you and your defiant signifying.
You skipped right over absinthe, opium, mescaline,
LSD, heroine, orgy and weed to reach the Zone.
You wrote Days of Our Lives, you won an Emmy,
you slid into the Zone on slippery bars of soap
opera, all choruses, no breaks, just one long jes-grew
coda 20 volumes long. In code and flat-out truth,
you logged L.A. behavior hot to cold. In erosong
you sexified her landscape’s dips and swells, her
heavens, her hells. Anything but quiet or quaint,
your pictures in wall-painted language (sliced
between canyons and summits and ridges) stick
to the ribs and to the heart half-free or caged.
Concrete streets and freeways couldn’t always go
the distance or reach the intimacy you loved.
What was a Watts-born woman to do but learn
to boogaloo? Or sail the desert? Or walk the sea?
Widely translated, Al Young’s many books include poetry, fiction, essays, anthologies, and musical memoirs. From 2005 through 2008 he served as California’s poet laureate. Other honors include NEA, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Fellowships, The Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence and, most recently, the 2011 Thomas Wolfe Award.