Two Poems

Heartbreak -- Mountains in the Rain

by Richard Risemberg

I spent ten years as an art photographer, had numerous exhibits, and sometimes did self portraits. Finally tired of gallery world politics and the limitations of a visual medium, so I returned to my first love, words. Oddly enough, English is my second language, but the one I speak best, thanks to long residence in the US and extensive reading. I was born in Argentina, of a Jewish father and a Catholic Italian mother, which at the time was the equivalent of a racially mixed marriage in the American South. To spice things up a bit, my mother had actually been in the Hitlerjugend in her teens! Needless to say, my family soon found reason to move north; we settled in Los Angeles, and that has been my base of operations since. I found the Los Angeles of the fifties and early sixties to be unutterably banal, but soon discovered that a great deal of the Big World still showed through in the midst of all the stucco and asphalt, partly a result of the propinquity of desert and sea we are famous for, and partly thanks to a 3,000 foot range of hills dividing the town. From liquor stores and traffic jams to birdcalls and rattlesnakes in a fifteen minute walk. The tension between civilization and its supportive natural processes, which most citadins struggle mightily to ignore, has formed the basis for much of my artwork since I was seventeen-- "Mountains in the Rain" is a good example of that, as are many of my photo series. "Heartbreak," also, with the wind as a character, exemplifies this.


That this wind comes
from as far as the sea
to stir these curtains
of faded rayon

that these curtains
stained with vagrancies
of stove and sink
herald its coming

that the mind must,
bring remembrance
of new-painted rooms

Mountains in the Rain

Seen now through rain
the mountains are
soft gray shadows
like dark clouds grown
out of the earth.

Hurrying feet splash
sidewalk puddles,
tires hiss on hard
concrete. The bum
by the liquor
store has lost his
cardboard sign. He
sits beneath the
metal awning,
listening to
tapping raindrops.
His beard sticks out
from the hooded
jacket. His face
waits in shadow.

Water falling
from the sky slips
under roadgrease,
finds the gray drains,
and makes a low
hidden music
on its way to
the restless sea.

Out of the bus
come pretty legs,
weary ankles,
a dull round face.
Some one walks past
the liquor store,
plans dinner, hopes
for a quiet
evening. She will
bend her head and
step around the
sidewalk puddles.

Seen now through rain
the mountains fade,
the city fades,
the serrations
of the skyline
dissolve like ink
on gray paper.
hurries home, and
the rainwater
runs to the sea.

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