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Hot Child in the City

Steve Kistulentz

         Never once after Iggy Pop told me young girls, they know what they’re after,
did I think of Roanoke, Virginia, since after all, what Iggy was saying
                     was just another way to remind us how
Los Angeles beckons the teenagers to come to her on buses,
         a line I’ve lifted from another song, but the point is this:
                           Kundera might have called it eternal return,
girls arriving, naïve pilgrims from Abilene, Ypsilanti, Youngstown, Ohio.

         Because that’s what the image becomes, Youngs-town,
in a city of screeds and ultimatums. VHS cassettes of Naughty Newcummers
                     (Volume 42) play as white noise in the background.
They come to this Youngstown and leave as nothing more than spent fuel rods,
         burning and dangerous for the rest of a half-life.
                           This happened to a girl I knew,
         the muffled shouting moans of porn like background music

         as Becky talked to her mother, dialing 1-800 COLLECT, Becky high
at 4 a.m., white knuckling her way to another tequila sunrise.
                     So young indeed, but surely old enough to know better
than to trust California and its vicious lessons of reinvention.
         If Los Angeles could speak, it would only say Goodbye, Norma Jean,
                           before letting out a tremendous belch.
         And after the great quake, the Irwin Allen disastrousness

         predicted by no less an authority than Steely Dan, California would
actually tumble into the sea, the result of writhing tectonic plates,
                     and, if there is such a thing as justice, find itself
reincarnated as Roanoke, the Hollywood sign as a gaseous apparition
         over the very same thirty-dollar Shenandoah Valley motel
                           where Becky begged her mother to fetch her,
         to permit her safe retreat to the familiar womb of a basement

         with a working washer-dryer, Sunday dinner after mass at St. Bernadette’s.
The real ending to Becky’s story would never sit well with a screening audience.
                     Too dark, they’d say, craving the spun-sugar confection
of another rehab romance, but this is a disaster movie, ending in room 27
         of the Carillon Motor Court, Becky hanging up the phone,
                           then pouring two gallons of gasoline over her body.
She’d gone to Los Angeles, and met a man who introduced her to confections

         of his own—Quaaludes and cocaine and ten-milligram Xanax.
She should have known the invitation, come on down to my place, baby,
                     meant every fairy tale can also be a tragedy;
Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off their toes trying to pack their feet, sausage-like,
         into someone else’s slipper. Becky’s mother said only sleep it off,
                           she’d have a clearer view of things in the morning.
But this is a genre story, without the possibility of a prince or a happy end,

         just a match, then fire, a girl who thought she needed a big bad wolf.

Steve Kistulentz

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