October 19, 2007

how Simon Rodia showed me my craft



before i’d launched a single soul

or heard the cat call in my voice

some sanity insisted that i see

the joy leaps of your towers

                                                Simon Rodia


in flat exhausted Watts

where no tree grew



                                                afraid of my life

                                                looked up at your craft-


                                                a maze of spires

                                                cathedral of steel rods

                                                a window washer’s labyrinth of tile


what wind had ripped you loose

of the gray grind?

motorcycles growled revenge

spanish mothers prayed

their baby Jesus would survive



cement and broken dishes

your creation:  the ark

still pushes at the backyard fence

baptismal font awaits

the new born

and here a bench for sitting


in your Italian Sanctuario

inlaid with jewels from the garbage

are all the treasures of a boy-  blue of broken tile

green fire of soda pop

seashells from the bottom of your pocket


                                                of broken wine decanter

                                                holy shapes that blossomed

                                                                                    in your hands


and in my northern neighborhood

when no wind blew

and nothing happened in the house


i would imagine that i had a craft

like yours                                

                                                Simon Rodia


and every broken bit of color

that life washed up for me

would have a place in my design



the city fathers

tried to pull

your towers from their roots

                                                Simon Rodia

not even swinging cement balls

could shake your work

                                                i saw you

                                                riding your joy leaps over their upturned faces

                                                over the arches over the many

                                                colored   mosaics   over the holy spaces

                                                you had created   a  whole world for me

                                                to visit


                                                and a great wind

                                                ripped me loose!




Note:  Simon Rodia was the creator of Watts Towers, magical folk art structures whose cathedral-like spires were made of mortar, steel rods and mesh, and whose intricate mosaic designs were made of broken crockery. It took Rodia, a poor Italian immigrant, thirty-three years to construct his life work. When the Towers were completed in 1954 he deeded them to a neighbor and moved to Northern California. The Towers survived the Los Angeles building department’s demolition threat by standing up to a pull test to determine their safety. The Towers can still be seen in the southeast section of Los Angeles known as Watts.


—Naomi Lowinsky


Posted by dwaber at October 19, 2007 12:31 PM