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I Pledge Allegiance
by Ellaraine Lockie

A hundred times to L. A.
over fifteen years
And always the feeling of foreign
Like I’ve jet lagged
through a throng of latitudes
Into a land of encyclopedic disparity
Located somewhere between
National Geographic exotic
and National Enquirer grotesque

Homegrown tossed
into the Hollywood Bowl
of big time travel
Spun beside silicone breasts
bleached blondes and BMWs
in other-worldly wealth on the West side
Garnished with conspicuous
consumption and grams
of high-grade cocaine
Ingested in houses
that host guided group tours
Where my bottled water won’t blend
with movie industry’s oiled opulence
Congealed in its counterfeit
attempts at real existence

Found authentic on the East end
Where I can’t mix
with the multi-lingual incoherence
of a melting pot stew
Fear steaming from the sight
of street hustlers serving dirty-
needled dope to teenagers

And semi-automatics to Hell’s Angel types
Alongside houses the shape
of shopping carts with addresses in alleys
Adjacent to an occasional artist
co-existing behind caged windows
and 2:00 a. m. clubs
Feral in a savage jungle
Where I’m a safari spectator
Subject to jeopardy in traffic jams
freeway shootings
and Rodney King scenes
An alien in my own country
Unconnected to anything outside
resident daughters and Disneyland

Until an American flag peeks
its post September 11 tribute from under
an oak tree hovering over a crack house
Tiny stars and stripes on a six-inch
stem transplanted beside
empty beer cans and cigarette butts
Other flags flapping freeway fraternity
between the BMWs and dent fendered heaps
Horns blaring at Honk if you
love America bumper stickers
Slogans similar on flagged T shirts
slipcasing the fake breasts
Compatriot cats and dogs
dressed in red white and blue collars
I buy a flag-contoured cookie
from a street peddler
without food poisoning worry
And I'm suddenly at home
Tierra natal, bayan ko, la patrie


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