My Route 66 to L.A.

by Charles Becker


 

I am sixteen when my father

decides to change jobs.

He will move the family

from New Jersey to Ohio. I beg

to stay behind

but I am packed

with the suitcases,

boxes of utensils.

All windows are closed

as we drive away.

The trip is endless

through mountains

and cities I already hate

for their factories, smoke, gray faces.

In Columbus my father stops

to ask for directions. It is summer and hot.

Old men in overalls ask why

we are moving. I don’t speak.

I am the invisible good boy.

Later at my new school

I am the strange kid

with the soft voice. Other outcasts

and sweet girls are drawn to my shyness

but for the bullies

I am edible target.

Insults rip me apart

like a wolf’s afternoon snack.

One day in study hall

sixth period

the teacher is late.

Circling my desk, a pack of greasers

calls me four eyes, bookworm,

faggot.

A drop of spit

falls onto my homework.

There is blood at its center.

 

 

Like a cornered animal

my body stiffens and prepares to die

for the last time.

After many years

from Chicago to Rainbow Bridge, Kansas,

Amarillo, Texas to Albuquerque.

Kingman, Arizona to L.A.

I am someone else

pieced together

life-styled

given a place to fit in

and be safe.

California Bird of Paradise

brothers and sisters

white lanterns around backyards

welcome me home.

We of this ghetto

barely survived

our own childhoods.

Now we practice

catching up

coming out

to play,

being visible

growing into old age

astonished

because we never thought we would.

 

 


Charlie Becker is a speech and language pathologist who has been working with disabled children in Los Angeles for the past 30 years. In addition, he has been studying and writing poetry with the Community Literature Initiative (CLI) at the University of Southern California since 2014. Some of Charlie’s poems have been published by Quill and Parchment (2018), Rush magazine (Mount St. Mary’s University, 2018), Passager Journal (Honorary Mention for 2018 Poetry Contest), and Vagabond Press (Extreme: An Anthology for Social and Environmental Justice, 2018). Charlie’s first book of poems, “Friends My Poems Gave me”, was published by World Stage Press in 2016. He continues to bring poetry to under-served high school students in L.A. through the Living Writers Series, using his book of poems. Charlie lives in West Hollywood, California.