SANTA ANA: DOWNTOWN
Sometimes the cold evenings
after work are filled with parrots.
No one knows how they got here,
how a couple of feathers fanned
out into this squawking-green sky
netting. Where do they sleep?
A white woman writes in an article,
her surprise in finding them
in the city. She admits her family knew
there would be changes when they
moved, but screaming parrots? She
calls this place her hood, she takes
the hood’s good with the bad:
the Mexican food, the rest of the
unpalatable characteristics. Writes
about its history. All architecture.
Wonders if she’d been better off
with a Spanish-style home. It’s not too late.
History. I think about how the Black
woman who lives across the street
from the house where I grew up had
to fight in court to lease an apartment
where she and her sweet husband could
sleep. History. Gardeners in front of
glowing donut shops before the sun
comes up. The neon signs, the tired
jokes on the AM radio. The laughter
of men who could make even coffee
bloom. Saving to buy a home of their
own. Renting garages and tiny rooms
in the meantime. Their children carving
out land for themselves, quiet places for
homework, where they can shyly radiate
with new words, long division and dreams.
Still, the new investors make promises
to bring the shine back. Exorcise the
downtown scrap yards—you, tell me
whether you are of this world or the
next, and I’ll tell you where to eat.
The streamlined storefronts, cold
windows radiating the cleansing
frost. I once heard a man at the
barbershop give his reasons for
splitting a small stretch of Fourth
Street into an east and a west, in this
place where ten years ago cardinal
directions would have squealed out
of his head in a wrong-turn panic.
But where the hell do these parrots
come from, man? Damn invasion.
Oh, that house we just got is going
down next week, tearing the yard
out too, but we’re definitely eating
the tangerines. And at the edges, I
can see the chayote vines reduced to
border filigree, swinging their spiny
pendulums below the living, floating,
breathing down, the mystifying cover
that is questioned then dispersed
Gustavo Hernandez is the author of the micro-chapbook Form His Arms (Ghost City Press). His full-length poetry collection, Flower Grand First, is forthcoming from Moon Tide Press in March 2021. His work has previously been published in Reed, Acentos Review, Sonora Review, and other publications. He was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and lives in Southern California. You can find out more about him at: hernandezpoetry.com.