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

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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