Michael J. Orlich

San Bernardino Streets


I come from the west.

You have to start somewhere.

I can see straight

down this road

for miles, but not today.

The arroyo is big, empty.

A woman picks.

Walls of comfort have gaps.

Across the tracks, the Meridian.

Arroyo Valley hawks circle

the stadium.


Tacos Mexican (what other kind?),

Rico Taco, Taco Grinch, Taco Central, Tacos L, Taco Bender.

Across the great river

of north and southbound lanes,

the smog corner, the fun corner.

Quick pawn. Fame liquor.

Dollar king, dollar tree, dollar general,

all Smart and Final.

Crossing Waterman.  I don’t know, Jack-

Is there a way out-of-the-Box?

The road is rising.


Milk dairy. Crazy Frank’s.

Auto spa, center, zone.

Universal Tires and Unified Baptists—

let them introduce you to the way.

Gina’s thrift, Charlie’s cars, Dale’s TV, Sam’s something.

Pain’s corner. Wayne’s RV storage. The House of Plywood.

Pepper tree restaurant.

Sam’s bargains. Gina’s thrift store again.

Maybe it moved already.

Sam and Gina seem to get around. (Or was it Gino?)


Welcome to High-land.

Sterling Street—still waiting for gold.

D&D furniture. The next sign explains.

Debt and Depression.

Three towers point the way—

open spaces, climbing.

Mobile homes—still.


Eternal fire is burning.

The police stand watching.

The churches sit on Church Avenue:

First United Methodist (must have beat the Baptists).

Saint Adelaide’s.  A graceful spire.

A proud tower.  A gilded arch

against the mountain peak—

San Bernardino looms large.

Straight ahead. Above the orange blossoms.

A marker laid down.

A city laid out.

A street laid straight.  Again?

You have to start somewhere.



E Street

The SBX (its name

almost exciting

for a bus) says

“out of service”—

seeming sadly wise

despite its shiny

red paint and CNG

and dedicated lanes

and high capacity

(for emptiness) in this

broad valley of open

urban spaces.


The sign

red and square

arched and gold

says 15¢ hamburgers

and a many-zeroed number sold,

but none for sale

here and now—

for what prophet

remembers his home

when profit calls?


But burgers endure

at burger-market and -mania

the little Gus

the In-’N-Out-backed

Harley man, he too riding

shiny red, without

the empty seats.


Other tarnished temples

remain and retain

or try to recall

an uncertain sanctity

of short school days

sleek, long cars

fresh, sweet citrus

and sixty-six—

remembered now by

the family service center

the Asian seafood market

NAPA’s omnipresent parts

trucks and taquerias

the Indian-band ballpark

Christ, the scientist

and other vacancies,

a shrined (or coffined) carousel.


Above it all

in sparkling steel and glass

a block or two off Easy Street—

the Center of Justice.



I travel south, the way of waters

fleeing down from the mountains,

the old Arrowhead pointing the way,

where water brought healing and hype,

where drought is bottled

and shipped for sale;


to the center of town,

the hallowed and the hollow,

with its Wienerschnitzels and wigs,

that center of dismantling

where it’s legal to pick-a-part,

with bail bonds and bótanicas

for those who suffer.


The left promises to deliver

as trucks back up to

endless bays without water,

which is pumped from the ground

toward the sea it will not reach,

ions exchanged for its TCE.


Roofing tiles sit stacked, silent.

Golf greens fly flags and flowers

in mourning.

Drab green fencing

seeks to hide the horror

so fresh, foreign, familiar.


The road goes on

watered by tears,

and ends in a Little Hill

in the place of remembering.

Michael Orlich began writing poetry in 2011.  Since then, he has hosted a small monthly poetry group in his home in Reche Canyon, in Colton. He has lived in the IE since 2008 and works at Loma Linda University as a preventive medicine physician and researcher in nutritional epidemiology.