Dinner in Los Angeles, Raining in July

Max Ritvo

The black night is a sea urchin.
The sea urchin is my mother
moving on spiny feet,
meat clotting with her desires. 

But meat isn’t the only thing
that moves the feet—
the cold sky puckers them,
shafts of gnats tickle them,
and the aroma of all things burns on the ground. 

The feet won’t obey her.
Every foot has a hunch in the wilderness. 


As the sprinklers brutalize the window,
the sun setting into city light, 

you ask to see my plate,
my plate, still studded with green beans. 

Thinking fast, I pitch up my voice into a story
about Dad trying to plug up gophers in the yard. 

About how when Prajapati opened his mouth,
he birthed the fire that eats fathers—
like a hose spraying gophers into his face. 


The only stars left
are mothers. 

Behind the urchin of the night is the ocean of the night.
Mother says Eat something: I’m giving up on you. 


Excusing myself for the bathroom,
I walk out the kitchen door and into the wet yard. 

Above me are stars
but no constellations, 

they won’t join tonight—
even with their own kind. 

I think, had they worn
the wooly clouds as wigs,
nobody would’ve mistaken
their bright eyes for bald spots—
not even themselves, poor critical things.