After Images

Poem By Theresa Haffner

i.

the afternoon tv
became the very real
depiction of a reality
that some had predicted
but none of us wanted
to see.
the verdict
in from the Rodney King Beating Case,
now video telereporting
from the corner of Florence
and Manchester
where a man had been pulled from
his truck and beaten
and the rioting had
begun.
No police on the scene
the reporting from
the circling
newshelicopter the only link
between sanity
and disaster

ii.

the
esoteric moment
we thought it was just
isolated incidents
the night
raged on
the fires ignited
the orange glow of burning buildings
against the black palm trees
and night sun
orange against black
the harried Washingtonia palms
like gargoyles
the Sack of
Southern
Los Angeles.

iii.

“no justice, no peace!
went the chant outside the
Parker Center Police Headquarters.
We were all on their side
as they leveled a police
guard checkpoint,
a tiny empty shack,
and dismantled it into
splintered pieces, igniting
the kindling
as eggs pelted
the troopers.

one fire.

three fires

thirteen fires.
orange and black
the tv image flamed

iv.

how much is enough
“this could go on
for another two or three
days, ” i said to judee

the 11 a.m. news report
like a continuation of the
night before
prompting walks to
the corner convenience store
for vodka, malt liquor
“hope it doesn’t happen
here, ” i said to the frightened
Korean in the liquor store.
he sold me what i needed from
the door, behind partially closed
iron gates. wouldn’t let
anyone in the store. Closing soon,
get what you need. Curfew.
No businesses will be open.
3 p.m. the smoke
hung low across the southern sky
over los angeles.

v.

burn out…
next day, like waking to a
nightmare –
like a war had been here
while i slept.
Convenience store,
burned out.
This quiet neighborhood
this peaceful street
as nice a business corner
as you could ask
but now the two liquor/food
stores in walking distance were destroyed
and for the first time in memory
there were panhandlers on the
sidewalk.
i took off on the bus to
get my check.

vi.

p.o. box office
closed until tomorrow, no way
to get check. Hollywood Boulevard
blackened by store fires. All my favorite
places. Fredericks, Playmates, two well known
lingerie stores,
the discount electronics store where
i got my tv adapter, gutted, the Swap Meet
store across the street from Tommies Burgewrs
on Wilcox. You could smell the smoldering
timbers. Some buses not running, I caught
Line 210 down Vine St. to Santa Monica
wanting to take a short cut home.
ended up getting stranded
at Sta. Monica and Van Ness, because
Sta. Monica bus took a detour out
of the area,
making a quick circuit back downtown
then out of service. and there were no
more buses running.
had to walk home
from Van Ness all the way on my
crutches, having no money but the dollar
judee gave me for bus fare.
as i walked the sidewalk
beside this battered street, past
the shattered windows and burned out
skeletons that used to be
recognizable as businesses,
a sense of awe fell about me
at the senseless destruction
of what had become more than
3,000 fires
and i said under my
breath,
“Oh, Beirut, this
beautiful city.”

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