Sometimes at midnight
a clown stands on the corner,
decked out in full regalia, a
box of long balloons next to him.
He scares the shit out of me.
The first time I saw him
I thought I was hallucinating.
The second time I saw him
I wanted to take a picture
but I was too chickenshit
to get close enough to
get a good shot.
That clown standing there
at midnight on a Saturday night
made no sense to me
but I guess it made no less sense
than me being there in the first place,
in this tiny light-filled studio apartment
in this building that was built in the ’30s
in this neighborhood that has nothing but warehouses and factories
in between the 10 Freeway and the Blue Line
in the shadow of the downtown skyline
in the memory of the violent South Central in the ’90s.
There’s graffiti on the side of the building;
it scares people who haven’t stepped inside
who haven’t seen
the big proud tacky-as-hell history mural on the wall
the small Latino families building lives,
the artists struggling to make it,
the people who smile and hold the door for you.
There’s a little fear
and anxiety in everyone’s eyes,
it’s true, but it’s home,
so we try not to think about
what the graffiti on the stairwell means
(I honestly have no idea)
and we remember to say
hello to our neighbors.
There I learned what it’s like to lay awake
waiting for the bedbugs to bite,
and I’ve seen a few huge roaches in the halls,
but I treasure the year I spent
at Washington and Main
listening to the rain on my third-story windowsill,
hearing the train go by at midnight,
seeing the sunset angled against the Staples Center and Bob Hope Hall.
It’s beautiful and I know
I won’t be able to stay away for long.