The Snow Globe of My Youth

Is filled with sand. A green ocean.
Sunset Boulevard lit in eucalyptus
shadow & windshield sun squint
winds through Chumash mesas
& whale bone canyons to septic
beaches. I shake the globe & in
the sand swirl I see that skinhead
chasing me through the Catholic
camp where my Jewish parents
put me and got called into the priest’s
office because I refused to say God
in morning prayer. The only God
I believed in was the question mark
& my holy ghost was Jolly Roger,
the dead pirate we were told
shared the cave that formed the right eye
of Skull Rock with a headless bear
& all the children like me who
whispered words like “atheist.” I
was six. That skinhead. He videoed
himself feeding his twin brother’s rat
to his python & left the tape
on his brother’s bed. I shake
the snow globe & the swirl shifts
to the after party for a documentary
called “The Parade” in a Chinese bar
without any Chinese. The skinhead has
a limp now & was just onscreen talking
about the night he & some other punks
were listening to speed metal in a debris
basin when a transient walked out
of the scrub brush with a rifle
& started shooting. The skinhead
leans on his cane and is talking
to the ex-Olympian whose blond hair
is a bare light bulb in this kaleidoscope
of red lanterns. “I don’t drink cocktails”
she says, “only Chardonnay.” The skinhead
has written a book. Someone says
your mom is not in it because your mom
was once nice to him. The skinhead
says that before his friends got shot
he was a Neo-Nazi but afterward
he grew dreadlocks and played reggae-punk
with the Bad Brains. Shake the globe
again and I’m still in that bar. You can’t leave
but you’re always trying to leave. The skinhead
keeps getting louder. He is what you were
raised to fear & fight against. He’s talking
about the Jetta that went off the cliff & sunk
down to Sunset Reef with a girl you all knew,
her red hair rising to the roof with the engine’s
last oily bubbles. The skinhead’s wife
says that he still suffers from the way
he treated people. “I’ll do anything
to make him feel better,” she says. A fight
breaks out. Red lanterns are swinging.
The skinhead has someone in a headlock.
I am forty. I am fifteen. I am all sixes.
I’ve known everyone here most of my life
but they’ll always be strangers, the sand
swirl that doesn’t settle.