Poets Laureate of Sunland Tujunga


Joe DeCenzo grew up in Los Angeles and majored in theater and English Literature. From 2004-06 he served as poet laureate of Sunland-Tujunga. He produced the Shouting Coyote performing arts festival and was a Department of Cultural Affairs grant recipient. His published works include The Ballad of Alley and Hawk and the Study Guide and Poetry Primer. His poems appeared in Meditations on Divine Names anthology (2012).

Joe currently serves on the planning committee for the Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga and as Chair of Poet Laureate Search Committee.

In addition to his volunteer work for Village Poets, Joe DeCenzo was involved in developing or creating:

  • 2002 Shouting Coyote Poetry Festival
  • 2004 Shouting Coyote Performing Arts Festival
  • 2005 Mother's Day Brunch at Bolton Hall
  • 2006 Commerce Ave Fair/Shouting Coyote Poetry Slam<


    Take me to the park before the towers block my view.
    Take me to where pinecones fill the crowded sunlit day.
    Innocent reminder of the circus of my youth,
    Take me to the park because it’s where I learned to play.

    Sitting in the shade to watch the budding leaves wax green,
    Kicking at the bark of every tree I tried to climb,
    Counting all the clover of my public Eden fair,
    Lying on the lawn where lovers dared to hold back time.

    Take me to the playground while I still have legs to run
    Ere I grow too old or too pragmatic to pretend.
    Push me on the swing. I’ll teach you how to throw a ball.
    Take me to that place I learned to share and be a friend.

    Hold the concrete back and let the landscape have its way
    In deference to that special place that all my cares forgive.
    Never let man’s progress make a vestige of the grass.
    Take me to the park because it’s where I learned to live.

    May 25, 2006. This poem was composed to commemorate the rededication of Little Landers Park. To Council District 2 and those who worked so hard to renovate the park, thank you for giving us a safe place to play.


    Do you remember what was playing that night,
    The night I first kissed you in the back row?
    Do you remember what you said to me
    Before a “shhh!” cut through the moment?
    You said I looked like Sal Mineo in my jacket and that hair,
    And I thought you were prettier than Natalie Wood.
    The fabric on the seats was worn, the plumbing didn’t flow
    The carpeting was dingy, the aisle was unkempt
    And the aging screen was tarnished with signs of disregard.
    It wasn’t the Orpheum or Palace
    But I could walk you there on the nights I couldn’t get the car
    For it was oh, so close to home.

    When I could get wheels, we’d dash off early
    With the projector still rolling; and drive up to the cross.
    Although I clutched my jacket tight to fend off the rising breeze
    You still managed to slip one shoulder in. Do you remember?
    It wasn’t long before we’d look down and see the marquee dim
    And the lights that read “Tujunga” sign off for the night.
    You were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen
    And your lips still tasted like butter and salt.

    I’d try to sneak you home,
    But the rattle of the car always gave us away.
    I don’t know why, but it always took forty-five minutes just to say “Good Night.”
    When inside, we’d see the hall light flash on and off, we knew our time was up.
    But before the screen door shut, I always managed to ask,
    “If you weren’t busy next week, could I take you to the movies?”

    I’m glad you still remember, I so hated to see it go.
    Many tried to guard our memories and keep the marquee lit.
    And whether we called it the Hilltop, Rainbow or Canyon
    It was where I dreamed of being as much your hero
    As those upon the screen.

    (c) 2006 by Joe DeCenzo


    In a less than perfect world
    With inadequate direction
    There are numerous reminders
    Of astonishing perfection.

    They appear in many forms
    Some still hidden, I suppose
    And the greatest indication
    Is the ordinary rose;

    Every petal purely placed
    To form an iridescent glow
    Around a stamen soft and sweet
    That bears the scent all lovers know.

    And I want my art to flourish
    In this manner I propose
    And I dare as much to ask,
    How do I create a rose?

    (C) 1984 by Joe DeCenzo

    Poets, c/o McGroarty Arts Center,
    7570 McGroarty Terrace, Tujunga, CA 91042
    Voice: (818) 951.1041 poetlaureate@mcgroartyartscenter.org

    (C) 2013 by Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga.
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