By: Clare Chu
LOSING FRIENDS AT AGE SIX
Jane was the first to go. I imagined she slipped through a rent in
the sky one morning when the air was too thin, but afterwards we
walked to school in pairs. Our mothers said never to talk to
strangers. I became mouse silent — my strangers at home, in
furled disguise, until evening dusk erased their stark smiles.
Oliver was next. My mother said Pour me another for the road,
and one street over his mother said Curiosity killed the cat, so
Oliver went in search of his missing, likely dead, cat. Climbed over
the backyard fence, snagged his sweater on the wire, licked blood
from his wrist and made a break for it down the grass bank.
Disappeared under our weaving car. Mother never saw him
Finally, small Silvia, our ‘baby’ in the game of ‘mothers and
fathers’, not allowed to play with us after she ran from her mother
one day, through a glass door which splintered, turned her hair
white overnight. And forever mouthed strange things to me from
across the street, like We will meet as birds with open wings, before
she too vanished through the same seamless rent in the sky.
When I started to choke on the plastic baby Jesus in the fruit cake,
(who was lost by now to others that had less faith and no luck),
a friend nearby thumped me soundly between my shoulder blades,
forcing me to vomit Jesus into my glass of Chateau-Neuf-Du-Pape,
where he floated languorously on his back until I retrieved him,
licked his little naked white body clean as a whistle,
remembered the restaurant was a convent back in the day
and with a smidgeon of guilt shoved him into my jacket pocket,
where he languished forgotten until one winter morning
when I felt my own body melting into the thin ground,
like main street in some suburban town the morning after a squall
when the plough trundles through parting the drifting snow.
Baby Jesus was given a chance at redemption, as with optimism
I transferred him from pocket to handbag where he now communes
daily with a miniature jade pig and a glass vial of glitter stars.
DRIVING ON PICO BLVD., JANUARY 2019
I should keep my eyes on the road driving on Pico, because in LA
we do much more in our cars than just drive. At one time or
another eighty percent of us have driven with our knees. I’m still
working on steering with one hand, elbow casually crooked at the
Driving next to me a woman smiles to herself, I see her multi-
tasking — full-volume raven-black mascara, low volume
Gregorian chant, an iced decaf oat-milk latte (no soy milk as she
carries the BRCA gene) (no almond milk as she’s heard there’s a
drought in the State).
The man behind me puts down his nose-hair trimmer as I watch
him in the rear-view mirror, picks up his phone to text the woman
he is going to meet (not his wife, she is at that moment placing her
hand over the real estate agent’s hand in another house fresh to the
over-heated LA market).
I should be aware of traffic ahead, and behind, but I’m distracted
by the growing pile of trash, discarded on the sidewalk. I’m not
talking about everyday litter — faded receipts, cigarette butts, hard
lumps of gum, plastic popsicle sticks, a crap-filled diaper.
Instead I clock the fifties porcelain toilet bowl, a three-legged
wicker-back chair lacking a seat, one mud-caked and blood-
smeared sneaker, a stained sofa-bed with a cushion carefully
placed at one end, the corpse of a Christmas tree flocked with
artificial snow and wrapped head-to-toe in plastic.
Stopped at the lights, alternating between podcasts, ‘Death, Sex &
Money’ and ‘My Favorite Murder’, I idly wonder what time of day
will it be when I spot a lifeless body right there in the trash at the
side of the road? Whether I’ll have time to pull over, park and take
a photo before I call 911.
Clare Chu was raised in Malta and England, and has adopted Los Angeles as her home. She is an art curator, dealer, lecturer and writer who has authored and published twelve books and numerous academic articles on Asian art. Her poetry is featured in a continuing collaboration with Hong Kong-based calligraphic and landscape painter Hugh Moss, in which poet and artist challenge and expand traditional media boundaries. Her poetry is published, or is forthcoming, in the Comstock Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, The Esthetic Apostle, the Raw Art Review, Cathexis Northwest Press, Rue Scribe and 2River View.