Toothless ladies reign
over my Hollywood neighborhood,
holding court on street corners.
Gold lame’ and a slash of red lips,
she flicks you away like filth off skin
and barricades you from the
wreckage of her fortress.
She sits on a throne of fading glamour
and keeps watch over the tumble of
ravaged relics that house her memories.
She came to the city to be gilded
and slathered in star light,
but settled for a crown of tin with
rubies made of glass.
Lurking behind the thin
stained metal of a bathroom stall,
brazen and breathing gravel,
she waits for an audience.
I open the door to a greeting
that crackles with delight,
but the smell of her misery
crowds the room.
She steps elegantly from
behind the tin curtain and
bows to her reflection in the mirror.
Her hair is tangled and covered with despair.
She is searching for a song
that died with the starlets of Ragtime.
Lips that drip fire grasp at words
falling through blisters and cracks.
Her nose seeps with determination.
She smudges blood across her teeth
with a tremoring hand, burps,
and flushes herself down the toilet.
Lady Street Jesus
She roams my neighborhood,
filthy and silent like the dawn,
her gaze darting rapidly across alleys
and into the windows of parked cars.
She is searching for people to save.
Her fingers twist in the air like antennae,
catching splendor on the wind.
She holds them hard and fast to her lips,
as if she can taste god on her skin.
The soles of her feet press
into splinters of waste and glass,
her penance burning and
tearing at the heart of her sins.
Desperately, she raises her face to the heavens,
searching for glimmers of the divine.
She never speaks or looks into your eyes.
Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. Much of her work focuses on her experiences as a partially sighted woman in a sprawling urban environment. In addition to poetry and creative non fiction, she also writes a blog called “Stories from the Edge of Blindness”.