The Ballad of Existing in Santa Monica

A poem by M. Lopes da Silva

palm trees and sandy beach

The Ballad of Existing in Santa Monica

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The Ballad of Existing in Santa Monica

Let me tell you about just existing
in a place where people don’t want you
let me tell you about Santa Monica

lost saint and what you lost!

and 2010ish and a trendy restaurant
and my lower back all fucked up from the car
accident ten years prior because my pain
was not a family priority
not a line item to pay off but a lesson:
a “serves you right!” for living in my hometown
and not yearning for suburbiopia

and anyway I am fat, not “big fat” but “small fat” my body
not California nervosa but California bitchweed
(Latinx but not in the Latin – you understand!)
and I am bisexual, with a fresh sidecut

hanging out with friends we
ordered okay food and the chairs

are really awful
not made for comfort, or with any love
in their bones
I gotta get up!
gotta stretch!
go go!
go go!
so I did!

and I stood outside
and gazed at the traffic and passersby
and daydreamed a while, thinking words up

and lo! there stood a pregnant woman!
holding her belly and peering hot eyes at me!
and though bemused/annoyed

(what about me spoke: smoke!?)

I was honest (begrudgingly!)
so I said: “No.”
“BECAUSE I AM PREGNANT!” she said. I was confused, silly dreamer!
“Yes!” I said helpfully. “I can see that!”
she did not appear to like my answer?

“I’m not smoking!” I added, hoping
maybe she just needed a reminder?
she was confused now, but still


at a table so I grinned at her friends and they looked uncomfortable

she had more to go! a speech!
about health risks, but I don’t care.
I know more about carcinomas than she spits at me
her tapas breath

making my grin wider and wider
I stare back out at the street.
I try to remember my word thread

before this rando tangled it all up

when she needs to inhale again:

“What does that have to do with me?” I say.

her curse

breaks! her speech runs empty!
she looks a little afraid now
and forever

she staggered back to her seat
unable to plant a tiny paper flag
from her mocktail
into my joy

I took a long time

I stood and watched
stood and watched

and I smiled
and mourned the poem
that you could’ve gotten
instead of this

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