Actualizing Emerald City

Cities, I wonder what you must have looked like to my grandparents and my great greats
when they steamed into Detroit from Hungary or New York Harbor from Russia and India,
the gleaming towers, heavenly like the residue of Atlas holding up the sky
or some actualization of the Emerald City they were yet to read about
But when they walked and fell into the Garment District,
when they quietly spread out into Traverse City, Chicago, Northern Maine,
they must have seemed so different then,
the cities

In the eighties my dad was growing up in the ruins of the American city
like a Springsteen song or the ashes at Pompeii,
tramway subway, on foot into the city;
and my mom was in suburbia glistening dull suburbia,
Highland Park on the edge of the lake,
no wonder they were driven to California,
generation of urban decay

And sometimes I think I was born in the age of the rebirth of civilization
that once again we would walk the great walls of Uruk
and bask in the greatness of bibliotechnical urban libraries;
and sometimes I think I was born in the age of the final death,
these are the times when the concrete presses down,
the rusty parking lots,
the smokestacks towering over the hill that towers over my high school,
these are the times when I can’t remember
the way the sunrise glistens off the overpasses in the morning,
rising from sleep and over the highwayed hill

And boy do I feel like a fool,
sitting here in a grass island of a house in the middle of a great city
unable to move past the fence,
even when I crawl off on evening walks I am held like a tennis ball
on a string swung by centripetal force around the neighborhood park;
boy do I feel like everything has stopped,
the developing houses on the edge of the eroding creek
that were supposed to tower over the sacred bluebonnets of the other bank

And it scares me to think of so many like me
in San Diego, Philadelphia of the charming rust, and Mexico City,
holed up in houses waiting like open heart surgery on the nucleus of the city soul,
all those hundreds of urban hearts bleeding on surgical stands
waiting for the lights to come on so they can be put back
by some miracle Frederick Law Olmstead in a surgical smock


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