When I was young I used to drive
with no companion or destination in mind.
Cutting through heavy valley heat on the 101
then curving toward the coast through Topanga Canyon
1969, on an unmarked road by a no trespassing sign,
parked between the boulders, eucalyptus and
sage with four-track off and eyes closed
I’m seventeen and waiting for a
transformation—that wasn’t coming that
Or any time soon.
For every hasty engagement
there was a Benedict Canyon.
For every cleaving together
there was geography.
For every graceful move on the water
there was a clumsy gesture when I came
ashore. For every girl singer who said those
words to me there is a false memory.
For every smile I still recall
there is an unfinished epic poem, an empire in ruins.
For every valley drive-in that closed
there was another movie we never
For every scar from hard labor
there was beauty in my imagination.
For every address where I recreated pain
there was a guesthouse with broken railings, an apartment with
stains and cleaning fees.
For every tent I pitched there was a daughter, a son or a
woman and another retreat.
For every hangover with a name
there was a promise broken, a declined therapy.
For every bad habit I abandoned
there was an investment lost, lawyers and signatures.
For every harbor I tried to make
there was a storm of words in the way
then an empty mooring.
I used to drive for days with no companion or destination in mind,
looking for immunity
in the canyons connecting valleys to the sea.
Topanga, Malibu, Deer Creek,
Latigo; Casitas Pass, Trancas,
Corral, Kanan, Tuna, Refugio;
Las Flores, Decker, Yerba Buena, San
Ysidro—for the days I never made it to the
lost in these small divides north and south
canyons give me a sign—
there is more than words and pride
for the things I’ve learned to live without.
Scott Hughes has a bachelor’s degree in English from California State University and has been enrolled in a Masters programs there and San Diego State. He has attended fiction workshops at UCLA. He wrote a novel and was working with an agent. The manuscript as well as a short story collection and poems were lost in a California wildfire that destroyed his house and neighborhood in 2017. After recreating some of the lost poems he was encouraged to focus on verse. A lifelong Californian, much of his work is emotionally tied to local imagery. The losses from the fire made him understand the importance of getting his work out there (and to always back up the hardcopy!). This is his first published work in a very long time.
[image: Topanga Canyon | Jordan Clark Haggard]