Photo by Aleida Rodriguez, 2008
Two night ago, I turned my car east onto Baxter Street from Echo Park Avenue. Straight in front of me was the famous Baxter Stairs -- the highest of Echo Park's many public stair-streets. The street lights that line the steps looked as though they had been hung on a vertical cliff. I slowed almost to a stop to look. It's not surprising that the hill -- also known as Kite Hill -- has inspired so many people in the neighborhood, though the usual awe comes from people stopping at the top of the stairs and looking across the canyon to the mountains.
Recently, I had the good luck to receive an Aleida Rodriguez poem, which was inspired by the view looking toward, not away, from the Baxter steps.
Thirty seconds later, head bowed to sudsy water,
and I would’ve missed it.
The pale mauve stain that seeps up from the hem of the hill
like spilled rosé would have evaporated
and I would’ve seen only evening’s indigo dress rent with stars.
But something makes me look up from twenty-three years
at the same sink and catch daytime’s ordinary pine
shedding its quotidian pretense,
entering left with a dark cloak and serrated eyebrows.
At right, the ineptly pruned cottonwood’s few emergent leaves
fill into a gown in the fading light
and it glides in, holding up a gloved hand.
Twilight, the dance these trees have begun between them,
hovers at the edge of taking form—or losing form?—
becoming the evanescent portrait between the vases.
The serpentine jewels of the Baxter Stairs
dangle from its darkening throat.
A shadow mockingbird streaks to the highest spot to release its song.