Out of Malibu: An American Exodus
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Malibu commemorates the young son's
birth. The sculpted balsa family spends
Christmases here in a lean-to
on a bluff. A star leads others to them,
then and now.
In that time of times—no light
guided law abiding
citizens on their trek, only warm
sandy days, bitter desert nights.
No intention of becoming myth
or graven image but here they are.
A likely place to settle. Like Sinai,
familiar palms, near a sea, hard winds
weather them, still as stones,
hearts hardened to wood,
feet statue still. Exiles altered
from folk to revered. Their design
never to be worshipped, they ask
this night for compassion
and so it was.
Their feet quickened
from carvings to flesh. The choice
to stay or leave now theirs,
they travel interstate byroads
at night when they will not frighten
other sojourners, they—homeless,
shoeless, unfamiliar robes, faces
still immobile from decades
practicing the art of crèche. This new
adventure across rocky peaks, great
plains. An arch marks a river, mighty
as any they had seen, this monster land,
roads like veins, Mapquest's
blue design. As Chaucer's pilgrims sought
redemption they trudge East, leave
behind those who thought they loved
them but imposed burdens beyond
imagination, less urgency than before,
their son born, free of civic bondage.
New-turned pine aches not like ancient
flesh. In weather they had not known
earlier they walk and rest, idols
unnoticed in the snow, part of December's
This time they follow no light
but their own, come upon an open swath,
Washington's obelisk, rotunda like Rome's,
somehow their kin, erected for the ages.
Beneath their feet the Post, sodden, headline
bawls War. Fine drizzle diffused
by starlight they stand before another,
newer wailing wall, a granite gash.
This, this! Their destination.
Rain turns to doilies (as this small
tribe turned from human tissue
to wood and back again), decorates
their cloaks, caps, hoods, slides
down the polished façade
before them. Wet-white punctuation
attach themselves to incised
names on this family's
own reflected images. They
reach to touch them
to quench the flow.
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