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Charlotte San Juan

Photography by V.A. Smith

Photography by V.A. Smith

Photography by V.A. Smith

California Aftertaste


We couldn’t hold California in

our mouths. The taste was too much

high fructose corn syrup, too much

salt and sugar, and bleach and

bronzing, too much card swiping

and car coughing for nine in the

morning, everybody with a tie

around their neck and a coffee

with their name on it, their

elevator jobs taking them

to the top of Los Angeles,

to the music of helicopters

and the pinprick rain-song of

sirens coming in and out of

earshot, a devastating dissonance

to the mottled voices of the asphalt

groundlings, pushing themselves

along the gutters, looking up

at the caffeinated skyscrapers,

squinting up into the white hot juice

of the sun, believing truly that

God hovered somewhere beyond

the steam-smoke factory afterthoughts,

and that God too, had coffee.






Have You Ever Thought About Quitting?


The customers come in drenched in flea

market cologne, in baby powder, or cigarettes

and sweat. They come in and forget

how to talk to a person, because

behind the counter, you are nothing

but a genie in a visor, punching keys

and making food appear at the caverns

of their open mouths.

You remember if they carry floral

patterned coin purses, or if they

bring their own pen to sign receipts,

if they like pepper flakes or if they

hate pepper flakes, if they

always come in sweat-pants

or in sequined dresses. You remember

when they were pregnant or

when their kids still had no teeth

or when they got into car accidents

and were three hours late, you

know what sodas their husbands drink, the

cars they drive, the color clothing

they most often wear, what gym they

are going to, how much they tip on

average, you know their thoughts before

they do, when they change their minds,

you already knew they would.

And sometimes, after weeks, months or

years they finally realize that you

too have a soda preference, a car to crash,

a sequined dress pushed to the farthest

corners of your closet, and feeling sorry for

your ponytailed hair, or the mascara

lines on your freckled cheek, they

push a crumpled dollar into the

palm of your hand and ask,

“Have you ever thought about quitting?”





Last Thoughts of A Hibernating Machine


When I leave, I will leave cigars.

I will leave their smokey

wine flavor in the fabric of my

car, abandoned beneath

the Los Angeles smog and sun,

like a dog tied to a post and forgotten

in the rain, it will wait for me,

soaked in smoke memory,

it will be painted in the white-brown

laughter of birds, it will sigh

and dream of my crooked voice,

the wringing of my hands on its

wheel, it will throb where it

has been stabbed, or burned

or ripped. It will whimper for

my bare feet to bring it

singing into the speed of life,

the stoic fool, the hibernating machine,

it will close its eyes to California,

sleeping in the fog of train songs

and traffic lullaby, until I rouse it

from its electric dreams.


Charlotte San Juan skips stones in dry riverbeds and has sedimentary thoughts while doing it. She  believes poetry is composed of microcrystalline quartz, and she hopes one day to be flint. You can find her combing the streets of Shanghai or here.

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