I’ve built cities in my brain,
cities that no one would recognize.
I’ve danced around Dublin with Dedalus and Bloom,
but no Dubliner would recognize his fair city
from my mental projection.
It doesn’t matter how masterful Joyce is in his description.
I’ve only visited the version that I tossed up in my mind
as I tore through his poetry,
and which was torn down in the wake of my reading.
And yet I treasure that false metropolis.
It’ll do — for now.
There was a buxom lass of London
who was perpetually undone —
her plotting, it flopped —
her buttons, they popped.
She was undone in more ways than one.
There once was a man from New York
who would only eat using a fork.
You’d think soup his ruin,
but ’twasn’t his undoin’ —
he starved over a giant slab of pork.
There was a young gal from Tokyo
who used her umbrella in the snow.
‘Twas structurally sound,
and held eighty pounds.
huge biceps had that buff girl of Tokyo.
There was a young man of New Delhi
who thought himself the new Machiavelli.
He said, “Make them fear,
or you’ll see them sneer!”
…’twere not for his knees made of jelly.
There was a salesman from Nairobi
whose mind trick was like Ben Kenobi’s —
or so he did think,
but — despite psychic link —
he couldn’t sell even one Flowbee.
The day drizzled on and off into the night. Dreariness seeped to a cold-soaked bone. And I was schlepping down that saturated sidewalk, feeling like I was being watched. That cloud rides overhead when one haunts a city that hasn’t another soul in sight. The denizens must be somewhere, and some must be outward-facing. They might be in the shadowy maw of an alleyway or watching from the warmth and anonymity of a darkened room, but the city never went without eyes.
This was the throbbing heart of the city — if, also, the darkened heart of the city. Within a two-hundred meter radius hemisphere of my position who knew how people were seeking heat? Some would be wrestling away from dank recessed pits in the backrooms of minds run amok. While others were in the act of surrendering — plummeting into that dim pit with abandon. Who knew what was happening? But — for some reason — I had to believe that something was. As I pressed a palm to a wet stone wall, feeling for the trace vibration of hyper-living, I had to believe that the perpetual city was still wound.
any city you enter after dark
will not reveal itself until the morn
you’ll see it like a scrawny sheep unshorn
vague blankness punctuated by landmarks
you’ll see nothing in the darkness of parks
not junkies sprawled out in clothes, rank and torn
though you see neon twenty-four hour porn
you’ll know not the dogs by their noisy barks
light makes it more pretty and more ugly
you’ll see it pick itself up and brush off
like shame walkers concoct a makeshift coif
turning focus from the bloody and stubbly
to see a city at its worst and best
catch it when it’s wearing last night’s dress.