The Hollywood Sign
for Hilda Weiss
By Pam Ward

Each day I leave home
I see Hollywood’s sign
Straight up Sixth
Underneath Venice
after a quick
costume switch
where Rossmore
turns to the cement
stars on Vine.
Where the lip of ambition
is a gum wrapper now
a black sticky mouth
on the base of a shoe
the only speaking part
some folks ever know.

greets me daily.
It teases my fate.
Makes me think
of Grandpa
playing in Baretta
telling me Robert Blake
was the nicest guy
but definitely the type
to off his wife.
And how easily
the scene could change
in my own living room
if Grandma didn’t stand up
and put her foot down
when Grandpa tripped
and tried to live with
Dorothy Dandridge.

The sign
bright & clean
yells the word,
at my car.
A command.
A noire curse.
A drill sergeant
barking marines.
Smacking me silly.
Yelling at me
“hey, stand up straight,”
A verbal Check-Point-Charlie.
A literary Star Trek fleet.
Holding the whole
porn industry
from seeping back into L.A.
with only nine letters
a few nicks from sky.

Hollywood laughs.
Hollywood winks.
bathes me in white
popcorn lies
watches me race
just like O.J.
over action-
packed streets
watches me swerve
watches me streak
watches my seventh life go by
gripping my coffee
between my knees
wearing my work clothes
like a disguise
trying not to lose
my life around
blow-up doll curves
drivers getting’
Clockwork Orange mean
and Christopher Reeve
makin’ bets for my spine.

the sign screams
casting away
Cape Fears or
Boogie Nights.
It sees…
Charlie Sheen, “winning”
Spike Lee doing
the got damn thing.
“Hollywood like you should!”
your giant billboard sings.
A burglar alarm.
A high-pitched whistle.
The kind only heard by dogs.
Calling all bitches
and broke down punks
and even drama queens
like me
wearing my sunglasses
like a smirk
eating Doritos Natcho Cheese
where an empty gas tank
is the only comedy
I know.

And even if I fall
in a pothole
or forget all my lines.
Or am beaten
within an inch
of my life
like Rodney King.
And my Hollywood,
a bottle of nail polish,
spills like blood on my thigh.
a slasher flick
a chainsaw massacre
fading to Black
Dalia wine.
Turning into
a two-part
cocktail mix
of the word.
toxic berry
splintered tree.
Making me as queasy
as a Catalina boat ride.

All I do is look up
see your giant
gate-mouth smile.
Munching a Bon Bon
Sipping some Vodka
Handing me another
Red Vine dream
Doing your
Hollywood Shuffle
between drought
ridden trees.
You sneak in
The way I used to
in Grauman’s Chinese.
Quiet as vial of Botox.
Firm as policeman’s jaw.
Talking me down.
Telling me, “take it easy”
Handing me
a Map to the Stars
You stand
like Godzilla.
The last scene
in King Kong.
Shirley McClain screaming,
“give her the fuckin’ shot!”
Your 45 foot landmark.
A single word speech.
An omen.
A playlist.
A ventriloquist on speed
teaching a galaxy of stars
how to shine.

Hollywood props me up
Pushes a toothpick
between my teeth.
Hands me a script
And a new pair
Of ruby rhinestone pumps.
Whispers to me
like Dorothy
before she leaves Oz.
Reminding me
of all that L.A. is
from Kunta Kente
to Bruce Lee.
From Florence &
Normandie hommies
to racists cops
speeding back to Simi.
Hollywood shines
me strobelight pink
gives me
second call back time
and reminds me
“there’s no place
like home.”

Los Angeles native, Pam Ward’s first novel, WANT SOME GET SOME (Kensington Books), chronicles L.A. after the ‘92 riots.  Her second novel, BAD GIRLS BURN SLOW, lifts the lid off the funeral business. A UCLA graduate and recipient of a California Arts Council Fellow and New Letters Literary Award, her work has been published throughout the U.S. A graphic designer and writer, she has edited the Supergirls Handbook, as well as other anthologies, and is currently working on a poster/story project entitled My Life, L.A., which documents African-Americans’ contribution to the land.