A film about a town by Robert Towne. A film about a town within a town, Chinatown. A film partially about a Los Angeles scandal in the early part of the 20th century (the story of the nefarious 1908 Owens Valley “rape” and the scandalous San Fernando Valley land grab by speculators). A film about Jack Nicholson. A film about Hollis Mulwray, a character derived from LA’s real-life water engineer William Mulholland (the general manager of LA’s Bureau of Water Works & Supply)—the name of the character Hollis Mulwray a clever anagram for “Mulholland.” A film about—of course—Los Angeles in the ’30s, a city of broad avenues, palm trees, green watered lawns & silent mansions serviced by silent Chinese staff. A film about power, rape & incest: about the courtliness of true decadence. A film about the past never being past, about the way the present is just part of the revolution of the wheel of history, something we only gradually come to perceive. A film about the sadness of discovering that American democracy is a façade. A film about a Mexican boy who comes out of the dusk riding a Palomino on a dried-up riverbed, delivering cryptic messages. A film about children who are lost & never find their way back. A noir film about other noir films, about moonless darkness & the daytime dazzle of Los Angeles streets. A film about Venetian blinds & blind desire. A film about abandoned box springs, broken cabinets and furniture detritus, their brokenness somehow lovely next to the mountains in the morning desert light. A film about never regretting what you do; a film about always regretting what you do. A film about what you can never do. A film about being lost between the desert & the sea.
Jon Thompson teaches at North Carolina State University, where he edits the international, online journal Free Verse: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry & Poetics and the single-author series Free Verse Editions. He is the author of The Book of the Floating World and After Paradise: Essays on the Fate of American Writing. The poems published in this issue are from a work-in-progress reflecting on landscapes in American film.