Konch Magazine - Living in the Deep West

Al Young

26 November 2013




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.