Genius Loci

(Oakland)
 
Make it
the place
it was then,
 
so full it split
vision to live
there in winter
 
so late & wet
abundance
toppled toward
 
awful—birds
of paradise
a profusion
 
the ripe colors
of anodized
metal; in gutters
 
umbrellas
smashed
like pigeons,
 
bent ribs bright
among black
slack fluttering;
 
camellias’
pink imagoes
dropping
 
into water
& rotting,
sweet stink—
 
& did not
stop :
the inundated
 
eye, over-
populous
urban eye,
 
the whole
place, to look
at it, was
 
as a footprint
in January :
everywhere
 
cloudy water
rising to fill
in the outlines,
 
& meanwhile
indoors differed
by degree
 
alone : without
love, loosed
from God,
 
there were
lovers & touch
rushing in
 
to redraw
your boundaries
constantly
 
because
it was a tune
you kept
 
getting wrong,
the refrain
of what it meant
 
to live alone,
months of that
and then
 
*
 
sudden summer, sheer release, streets all cigarettes & sashay,
balls-out tube tops, low-riders & belly fat, the girls on the block
 
all like Oh no she didn’t, and girl, she did, she was mad skills
with press-ons & a cell phone telling him where to stick it, a kid
 
on her hip, just like that, summer, sheer beauty & lip-gloss
that smelled like peaches, & you going to the store for whiskey
 
& condoms like everyone else on a hot, long afternoon
so long & hot it would just be sunburn to walk anywhere if it weren’t also
 
a pleasure, thoughtless & shiftless & horny & drunk,
just someone thinking summer wasn’t up to anything deep, & lo,
 
there he was, his punk-ass pink as a Viking in a tight
wife-beater & lingering by the public pool, drinking beer so sly
 
it didn’t look illegal, & he wasn’t a good idea but
did you have a light? & it seemed the whole summer went like that,
 
taking fire out of your pocket & giving it away, a ditty
you could whistle it was so cliché, like the numbers they gave you after
 
& you never called, the number of swollen nodes of the kissing
colds you got & later the number to call to get tested, the number of the bus
 
to the clinic, the number they gave you when they asked
you to wait, the number of questions asked, number of partners, number
 
of risks, number of previous tests, the number of pricks
—one—to draw the blood, the number of minutes you waited before
 
results, & then you decided you had to get the tune right,
the how to live it so it doesn’t kill you, to take a number & wait in the long line
 
of the city’s bankrupt humanism like the bus that never comes
no matter how long you wait, & the grocery bag breaking, & if you were going
 
to sing that one, the one that sounds like all I got is bruised
tomatoes, broken glass & dirty bread & no one waiting at home, would you
 
*
 
start with genius,
as in, the spirit
of a place?,
 
& small, as in
of the back, wet
in heat,
 
& the urge
to touch him
there, skin
 
just visible
between his jeans
& t-shirt,
 
to see if
he’s sweating,
to see
 
if he feels
what you feel?,
& if he does,
 
is that all
the spirit the place
will give,
 
a small thing
shared, just
a phrase, not
 
a whole song,
but something
to build on?,
 
& if it isn’t bread
& if it sure
ain’t tomatoes
 
it isn’t empty,
is it, like the signage
you walk by
 
that fronts
the Lakeside
Church of Practical
 
Christianity,
hawking
a knowledge of God
 
so modest
it seems easy?,
& it isn’t ever,
 
is it, the how
to live it
so it doesn’t
 
kill you,
the where
to touch it,
 
the when
will genius
sing your name
 
so it sounds
like a place
you can live?

 

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