“Oppression makes even God smell foul.”—Felipe Luciano

Reading the newspaper I feel like an accomplice;
a voyeur is also guilty of something.
So the murders, the corruptions
and calculated larcenies against the spirit
reside in me too.
It’s easy, I suppose, to pretend
I don’t pay rent to the conspiracies.
And that the church is immune
because it’s tax exempt.
But from a landfill or cemetery
grow multi-colored flowers.
Who can say then
from what polluted soils
my blossoms will spring?

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LUIS J. RODRIGUEZ is the Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, chosen by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014. In 2015 he won a Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement for Poems across the Pavement: 25th Year Edition. His poetry has also won fellowships from Los Angeles, California, Illinois, North Carolina, the Lannan Foundation, and the Sundance Institute. In addition, he’s received a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, a Carl Sandburg Book Award, and a Chicago Sun-Times Book Award, among others. The 1993 memoir Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., with close to half a million copies sold, became one of L.A.’s most checked out books in libraries—and one of the most stolen. Luis has a dozen other books in poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction. He’s read, done talks, and conducted workshops throughout the United States as well as Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Japan, England, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is also founding editor of the small press, Tia Chucha Press, publishing for over 25 years, and co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley. Luis’s last memoir, It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing, became a finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award.

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