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Rosecrans Avenue: Five Cinquain Poems

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.

Photo by David Thornell

Photo by David Thornell

Five Cinquains about life on urban streets (Rosecrans)

I.

Woman

On a main street,

doesn’t really belong.

She’s looking for her candy man

…junkie.

II.

A man,

property in

a rusted shopping cart,

rambles on down the dirty street,

his home.

III.

Gangstas

Shoot seedy looks

At slow-moving Buick

filled with homies scoping them,too.

Rivals.

IV.

Sirens!

Ambulance race

to the local ER

Five or six times, on this bleak day.

Sickness…

V.

This street

won’t hide its ills,

reveals its ugliness:

A warning for those who don’t belong

Don’t stop!

The American "Haiku"

Facts about Cinquains

Cinquain is American answer to Haiku and Tanka. Like the Japanese poem, Cinquain is a syllabic poem written in five lines. The scheme of the poem is as follows:

Line 1: two syllables

Line 2: four syllables

Line 3. six syllables

Line 4: eight syllables

Line 5: two syllables

In recent years, the format has been altered. Instead of using syllables, the line may use words, part-of-speeches, or other styles.

In many respects, the experimentation moves it slightly away from being considered an equivalent of the Japanese forms. Either way, the number count for each line is the same: two, four, six, eight, and two.

The form was created by Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914). Since its inception other poets have used and tweaked it to fit their style. It is not often written in a sequence; however, compared to most forms, it is relatively new and is open to more experimentation.

Also to note, Cinquains are popular with elementary school teachers. It is an ideal way to teach various language rules such as part-of-speech, syllables, and vocabulary.

An Urban Street

Rosecrans Avenue is a street of striking contrast. To the west, it runs through Los Angeles County’s affluent South Bay communities of Manhattan Beach and El Segundo. To the east, it passes through the hard-scrabble communities of Lawndale, Hawthorne, Gardena, and Compton. Eventually, is stretches through Long Beach, Norwalk and onward to the Orange County border.

Like many streets in Southern California, it is a long and wide thoroughfare that connects many diverse places. It is also the scene of some of the most unfortunate places in the region. The homeless, drug-users, and gangsters are common occupants of the street’s east end.

The events portrayed in the poem are mere observations of an area east of Hawthorne Boulevard.

Origin of the Name

The street was named after a Civil War general who owned land in the area.

Rosecrans in Literature

The street was immortalized in print by two authors. Charles Bukowski mentioned the street in a few passages in his collection of poems, novels and short stories. Richard Matheson, referred to the street in his classic vampire novel, I am Legend. The original story and two of the three movies based on the book (Omega Man and Last Man on Earth) were set in Los Angeles and it suburb (the main character lived somewhere in South Los Angeles or Compton). The recent movie version -- with Will Smith -- moved it to New York City.

Rosecrans in Norwalk, CA

Rosecrans in Norwalk, CA

© 2012 Dean Traylor

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