For Mike Davis

A prose poem in tribute to the late author, historian, political activist—and mentor.

writer mike davis

Mike Davis was my professor at UCLA 25 years ago and my primary mentor. This poem is a short tribute to him with references to inside stories that we shared, some of his chapter and book titles, and moments he told me about. Mike was always incredibly generous, and he loved hosting intergenerational dinner parties where everyone could eat and catch up. His veracity as a writer was equaled by his kindness and integrity.

In the land of the lost mammoths with pirates, bats & dragons in praise of barbarians you saw Hollywood’s dark shadow. Heading south of no north through the City of Quartz you set the night on fire in Echo Park a generation after they called it Red Hill. You found your thrills listening to Dorothy Healey at 84th and Vermont. Then you hit Pogo’s Swamp to listen to Levi Kingston’s intergenerational swinging ascension.

You drove a Gray Line tour bus while reading Carey McWilliams with Filipino tourists. You annotated the diagram of the silver geriatrics who tried to kill Los Angeles. After attending UCLA you split fast to Belfast to escape and write about prisoners of the American Dream. Reagan’s Magical mystery tour Dujour the War on Drugs unlocked the hammer and the rock. You called their bluff a year before Rodney was struck.

Driving a big rig truck seemed like it could be sustaining but you found your calling calling Fortress Architecture and the LAPD for what they are: Sunshine & Noir. You were even there the day the sheriffs executed Ruben Salazar inside the Silver Dollar by Laguna Park on Whittier Boulevard. While the world watched LA turn you presented the case for letting Malibu burn. You excavated Dead Cities and late Victorian Holocausts.

You demonstrated that the antidote to Ecology of Fear is Magical Urbanism. Let’s not forget the rise of the CoronaVirus. 15 years before you saw the Monster at Our Door. From the flames of New York to Dante’s inferno, your voice so sharp you asked who would build the ark?

In 1997 after I read as much of your work as I could, I took your class The Emerging Latino Metropolis at UCLA in my final quarter before graduating. You helped reveal layers of identity so we could remember we. Your footnotes the rope I used to climb into LA history, I read at least a dozen authors I saw quoted in your prose. You invited us into your home and shared outlines of your essays so we could write our own someday.•

June 29, 2022
Monterey Park, California

Mike Sonksen, a third-generation Angeleno, is a poet, an essayist, and the author of Letters to My City.
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