Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cities (A Poem)

I'm still tinkering with this. Patrick thinks it's too depressing. I should remember that Grace Lee Boggs is still in Detroit and still believes in the future. There are some remarkable people living in -- and fighting to revive -- our ruined cities. Maybe our future is there, among the trees.

But here is the poem:
Isn’t there something wrong with a nation
where the cities die?
Youngstown returned to grass and trees,
Detroit mostly empty,
New Orleans still a wreck
five years after the flood.

The list goes on:
Buffalo --
the factories gone
that used to fill the sky with smoke,
the people off to other places.
“Write when you find work.”

Rome was like this,
as old prints and paintings show us.
Think of Piranesi’s
Antiquities of Rome --
gigantic ruins
surrounded by fields,
trees growing
on top of triumphal arches,
tiny eighteenth-century shacks
standing in the shadow
of imperial colonnades.

(Early on
there was still an emperor somewhere,
dressed in purple silk and pearls,
surrounded by courtiers
assuring him that all was well.

The people in the ruined city
knew better,
as did the soldiers
no longer able to conquer.)

Here the highway machines
tear up paved highways,
turning asphalt back
to dirt and gravel.

Buildings are boarded up.
Libraries and fire stations close.
City lights go off.


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