San Fernando Valley

Punctual gods of my father’s jet
propulsion tests lit up the San
Gabriels, counterfeit storms, deferred
call and response with flashbulbs ignited
to enshrine my sisters stooped beside
the concrete grotto in apathetic prayer—
Saint Mel’s, newly sprung
among the silenced bucket loaders,
churned scrub, white and modern
as Apollo on the pad, cocked
with the sun in its crosshairs.   Palm Sunday,
beltless in the back seat we knighted
and fanned each other, brandished the green
scepters with care, suspicion, their derivations
plunked in ranks to salute Ventura’s
traffic, the horizon’s fresh corrugations.
We blessed garages, sidewalk dogs,
a woman pumping sunburnt arms,
frond gripped in her fist as if
to flog the surviving citrus groves
and beleaguered rows of walnut through
the canyon fog to exile, far from
split-rails, pickets, dependent roses
we ranged in our finned wagon, fugitive
bougainvillea defecting from trellises,
window frames, adobe doorways
headlocked in horseshoes of purple fire.

Ralph Sneeden has work forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, and other poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, POETRY, The New Republic, Slate, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, and many other magazines. The title poem of his first book, Evidence of the Journey (Harmon Blunt, 2007), received the Friends of Literature Prize from POETRY Magazine/Poetry Foundation. He was the Chubb/LifeAmerica Fellow at the MacDowell Colony and the Bergeron Fellow at the American School in London. He was born in Burbank and teaches English and directs the George Bennett Writer-in-Residence Fellowship at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.
*Photo courtesy of La Citta Vita.
Explore Related Content