At the Malibu Country Mart
I beheld the decrepitly ageless
Their bronzed bodies
Their proud physiques
Updated by Pilates and the latest nose
Elegantly packed into exercise pants and t-shirts.
Clothes not for exercising
But to announce:
I can afford to exercise.

No citizens left
Only bright highlights, hair tinsel, and a ruling cadre.
In a town so thin
It had stretched out on a burning beach
One thousand mansions
For one hundred oligarchs
Down 14 miles of speedway.

When I first arrived
I used to think
Of those Gibraltar monkeys
You told me about on the last sun-drenched rocks of Europe
Staring out at the blinding sunlit ocean
The seagull bleached cliffs
The roar of a nearby airstrip
Eyes and brains made useless
By too much light.

No civitas. No sidewalks, no grand parks.
No speaker’s platform for assembly, speechifying,
Or dissent.

No Cicero, no Plato.
No Alexis de Tocquevillle.
Only ten-dollar lattes
And penny cheap beaches.

Jesus was still dying on Calvary
But the sun was too bright
To look uphill.
Buddha passed through and all
That remained was
Wellness and self-care. Muhammad was banished
And Confucius unknown.
Who needs afterlives in a town
Where nobody dies?

I left my books in Los Angeles
And put on sunglasses
So that no one could see my eyes anymore
As I peered out from the cliffs
Toward the Pacific
My eyes and brains finally made useless
From too much sun.

Jason Blakely is Associate Professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University. His most recent book, We Built Reality: How Social Science Infiltrated Culture, Politics, and Power (Oxford, 2020), received accolades from luminaries like Charles Taylor, David Bentley Hart, and Bishop Robert Barron. He also writes regularly on politics and culture in popular venues like Commonweal, The Chronicle of Higher Education, America Magazine, and The Atlantic. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and B.A. from Vassar College. He is a Senior Fellow at the Nova Forum for Catholic Thought at the University of Southern California.