My California

Lee Herrick

Fresno-based poet Lee Herrick was recently named as California’s poet laureate. To celebrate, we’re sharing Herrick’s poem from Issue 83, “My California.” You can order the issue from our shop as well, simply specify that you’d like Issue 83 during checkout.

Here, an olive votive keeps the sunset lit,

the Korean twenty-somethings talk about hyphens,

graduate school, and good pot. A group of four at a window

table in Carpinteria discuss the quality of wines in Napa Valley versus Lodi.

Here, in my California, the streets remember the Chicano

poet whose songs still bank off Fresno’s beer-soaked gutters

and almond trees in partial blossom. Here, in my California,

we fish out long noodles from the pho with such accuracy

you’d think we’d done this before. In Fresno, the bullets

tire of themselves and begin to pray five times a day.

In Fresno, we hope for less of the police state and more of a state of grace.

In my California, you can watch the sun go down

like in your California, on the ledge of the pregnant

twenty-second century, the one with a bounty of peaches and grapes,

red onions and the good salsa, wine and chapchae.

Here, in my California, paperbacks are free,

farmer’s markets are twenty-four hours a day and

always packed, the trees and water have no nails in them,

the priests eat well, the homeless eat well.

Here, in my California, everywhere is Chinatown,

everywhere is K-Town, everywhere is Armeniatown,

everywhere a Little Italy. Less confederacy. No internment in the Valley.

Better history texts for the juniors.

Here, in my California, a grizzly bear will not get shot.

In my California, free sounds and free touch. Free questions, free answers.

Free songs from parents and poets, those hopeful bodies of light.

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