The City
by Laura Winton


The fool, beggar, collector of things—

            a scavenger trashfarming

            a strange organic tapestry from

            the rubble of a city.  Pompeii.  Atlantis.

            Punctures flesh bloody

                        and droll—the rubble

            of a city not bombed

                        or burned. Apostolic.

            On guard: visions and angels

            in broken bottle shards; extinction

            in a chicken bone: Toucan beast,

            nose-heavy, grounded, domesticate.

            A city dead: mammoths and saber-

            toothed visions of eden.

            Evidences of Christianity.

            Archeologist of the living.


Refineries burn all night, apocalypse

            city whose towers and pipes blossom

            into fire, the sky red all night long, northern,

            nagasaki nights: six months of unnatural light.

            You'll learn to sleep in the blue

            indoor glow of television test

            patterns and practice for

            unnamable emergencies. Apocalypse

            city: name spoken in whisper.

            Shadow monuments.

            Red sky at night . . .

            Red sky at morning . . .


In the suburbs they are building the cities of the future: high rise teleports in beige symmetry. George Jetson flies overhead, dumps coffee on the city of the past. Green glass mall windows make a hot house, as if something will grow there: hospital-sterile clean buildings, smog-repellent windows with unnatural air and noises inside.

The inhabitants of the old city are bused out to sweep the streets, collect the trash, and take it back with them.


Ask the Question:

How does the wheel stop            on

            America / Small Town /  White / Girl            ?

How does it                                    stop

            on Gaza / Palestinian?            Bosnia / Moslem?      Iran / Woman?

Where are the new cities to be swept and sculpted there?


The city spreads outward in

            faster and faster concentric circles. The city

            spreads like water rushing off a table faster

            from the center

                                    from ground zero,

                                    from buildings shattered and abandoned

                                    not bombed or burned.

Plywood windows are billboards

            written in strange languages

                                    —             dead languages

                        birthed from the old city; stillborn. Window frames

                        hang heavy like fenders bent beneath truck

                        tires, sidewalk shattered. I could be

                                    anywhere. Belfast.

                                                            Oklahoma.            Beirut.

Asbestos snowflakes float

overhead, the ashes

of Jews, nuclear winter remnants

of a city

            at the epicenter.


The city spreads outward into

            Sisyphean hills rolling on and on             push

            the stone it rolls down the next                        push

                        the stone it rolls down                                                push

                                    the stone.



Evolution in an assembly line.

Life awaiting a patent.

You can build a rainforest with plastic batteried-birds and chlorine salt water.

Child toys remind us of what used to be:  the quaint old city and its jungles outside.     

Domes hold the sky in place, refract the sun in 3-D prisms,

Zoos and seedbanks are old-age homes for what was once wild as

            the memory of home and habitat disappear

                        in chromosome amnesia:


                        Re-invent yourself.

                        Excuse yourself

                                    to make room for what comes next.


In every silence there is a prayer,

and this moment is already

                                    writing itself.

For the audio performance of "The City," the guitar work is by Danielle Billington. The recording was made by Arthur Durkee.

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