POETRY: No Other Paradise by Kurt Brown

No Other Paradise by Kurt Brown

Pale dawn then banks of cloud shot with light
highway salted to a dry crust the sun a white flame
but no ice the river a broad rippling scintillance
the skyline’s jagged profit chart we wake to our own reality
purely imagined the ghost-life of money war
history’s fractured narrative we had a paradise
it was around here somewhere near blighted derricks
tankers bloated with oil on the far bank
more of the same and where bridges stride
listlessly above the waste raw sky empty of wings
*
standing here in this city this gray sprawling
dismasted island made of baby carriages
and sunken rails stink of scorched rubber howl
of metal Lucite mortar polymer glass
horizon of stainless steel chromium nickel towers
so high they lean in grid on grid finials and brick
cladding the vanished hulls asphalt slips
once porcupined with spars and under pavements
scooped blasted interior of spongiform rock
city of tin cans conurbation of exposed beams
men with lunch boxes dining nonchalantly in air
lives teetering on pylons and the sea’s indulgence
*
slurry on the river a liquid gel and in the park
pigeons huddle by a wall heads stuffed back
into shoulders like rolled socks wind
veers down alleys and mews hurdles buildings
spills into the city’s mold then hardens into towers
catwalks parapets buffeting the few
who scrabble home or off to work is it that difficult
to get from one place to the next tall gusts
bludgeoning cornices cabs the decrepit façade
of Deutsche Evangelisch Lutherische Est. 1859
meanwhile Miss Donna “Mystical Astrologist”
deprived of customers falls asleep over her cards
*
snow circles the pediments handprint of a child
on Fourth Street filled with rain sign on a cellar door
jazz until dawn but dig in one corner and turn up houses
old pastures parading troops riots slums
no longer crowded to know is to guess age on age
everything streams past this palimpsest this eviction
of ghosts and by the frigid beltways prow
nudges prow avenues come apart the past is spliced
onto the present the future snaps like a cable
nidus of incalculable ambitions necropolis of dreams
now sunlight breaks fully on these stone embrasures
*
no silence but steady tumult night or day
skirl of iron blast of brakes wrecking ball
and dredger listen someone’s key rattles in a box
we were born here passing through flesh
to become flesh in the white rush of acetylene
the boom of freight arriving in a bright arpeggio
of taxis departing in the echo of announcements
I didn’t do anything he says I was half asleep
then a gust of air before the train arrives
bristling sound along the tracks like hundreds
of tiny wires shaken together a secret scuttering
the bastard slipped out on me doors close everywhere
and in the freezing air all that was never said
glitters louder than jackhammers probing the street
*
there’s always someplace else to be but where we are
hurrying uptown hurtling down highways
stream like gunwales leaving our old address
while buses slick as carp nose down avenues
helicopters hope from stalks of concrete even the earth
trembles underfoot shuddering with departure
sky-hung scaffolding sways settle under booms
and steel nets coming and going there are clocks
everywhere printed with the details of ephemera
a nickel glints on the sidewalk pressed into stone
*
pipes froze windows cracked it was that cold
laundry hung like sheets of metal on the line
later soot rain the bald sun-scorched arcades
blood stopped in the arteries the intricate veins
of the face squalls blizzards a hundred winters
buried in the mind this isn’t a city it’s the world
built up and demolished icicled and white
someone skis down blanketed ravines the abandoned
offices exposed manholes breathing steam
and later gelid bodies brittle as petrified wood
appear like pharos under elegant pyramids
makeshift ziggurats a mummified doorman stamps
his feet and takes a long-drawn glittering breath
*
praise the filth the narrowing sexual nights
history’s pages thumbed over and over in the street
young girls trudge past gloved hands locked laughter
spangling the air then a child dragging a sled
such storms rise out of the sea to reclaim the town
dragging it under a powdery white iridescent foam
praise the cinder the compact scalloped slush
the incalculable waste box and melon rind
greasy axle and lug nut the flyblown busted armchair
in which no one sits but the bleak fugitive sun
praise ashcan and coal chute brackish gutter and cracked
pane how the brand-new passes through the present
to the harrowing unspeakable dump don’t let go
they giggle turning the corner with linked arms
if you lose someone here you may never see them again
*
angle of earth and our distance from the sun
all these lives pitched outward man in a penthouse
woman in 14-c it was around here somewhere
higher and higher time leans in brimming the dank
projects the rich basilicas someone’s hat
blows off and rolls down the street who isn’t a city
a generation who isn’t a graveyard the flaking
broken stones MOSCOWITZ O’MALLEY
POUDELLE VAN DER SLUIJS VOSZKA
CHORBAJIANI SUDHOLM NJOKU-OBI ZENK
passing through flesh to become flesh mothers
strolling under bare trees fathers turning in the long fall
*
one shop trembles like a wick windows
spewing flame houses in surrounding streets
shudder together like dry leaves
sirens and alarms walls reflecting strobe light
smoke billows out and pours into the sky smell
of the eternal scrapbooks photos letters
files crammed with documents words beginning
to erase themselves the past lifting up and thinning out
the future vast and blue swallowing it whole then nothing
but the pungent odor of burnt wood water sealing us back in
*
Miss Donna wakes in snowlight no one there
only her cat chary and alert as though something might
happen some restless apparition or voice listen
across the water cannons rumble as a ship arrives
ensigns aloft and near the slips drunken song
anarchy of gulls fish market pig stall the butcher’s
litter this island itself a ship breasting time
she hears it in the silent rocking of the shop and now
as the wind luffs rattle of cartwheel bottle chink
blade drawn slowly over stone sound of a dog
from a different century sound of a dog
down the wall the insubstantial dead the multitude
*
if it’s all glass why can’t we see through it
river to river its febrile life exposed tier on tier
into endless air and when we come down
a little drink steadies us anchors us again to the ground
whenever one of my friends succeeds he says
a little something in me dies ghost-life of numbers
all that abstraction trapped in concrete all
that sweat that heartbreak just as the hairs on the head
are numbered the breaths we take going up
we say to spend our day suspended between
heaven and earth how the invisible the bodiless
can crush us story by story floor by floor
*
four a.m. the savage markets aproned men
in boots haul fresh meat hooked aloft packed
plucked bodies skinned sinew and scraped bone
a carcass swings hacked open to a lattice of ribs
across town catfish lie composed in steel bins
near moist hake plush with oil and knots of octopus
glisten in aluminum tubs nothing can appease
the city’s appetites its cold lockers swung wide
mounds of bread like fresh graves stacks of lettuce
squash potatoes leeks trucks arriving with the first
antiseptic light the hauler’s hands bloody
with their work the very stones stained with it
until their hoses wash them clean and the river
profaned with garbage drags its filthy body towards the sea
*
praise the sewers the black scabrous buildings
praise billboards their ripped illuminated smiles
light erupts spills from the center like fire
a spectral phosphorescence leaching the ravenous dark
windows appear statues in the park grow pensive
trees nudge each other the moon swings on its black cord
and on avenues thick with lights chic salons
ignite cheap heraldic logos the city flings its halo
into space a bright tentative exhalation above the roofs
the shivering muffled light scarred with stars
*
a hesitation a hush the rush of traffic slows
Miss Donna lights a candle and stares into her own palm
on the next block St. Bosco’s Elementary spills
children into the street their voices punctuate the dusk
mothers stroll under bare trees and fathers turn
as though they could hear something a bell ringing
in the next century the ghost-life of war if you lose
someone now you may never find them again
for a moment walls tremble leaning into each other
as what-has-been leaches into what-will-come
and in a mailbox somewhere there’s a letter
written with a firm hand bearing news that will wreck a life
meanwhile wrapped in blankets a bum stops
at the corner and squints at a billboard for Clancy’s Whiskey
“a little taste of heaven” to calculate the angle of earth
his exact distance from the sun in the morning
he’ll emerge from his ziggurat of boxes bored stiff
and chastened ready to assume the blessings of his new life
*
o fish-flanked city crux of origins locus of souls
we wake to our own reality just now and always again
train wreck widow’s cry the murderous indictment
banks of light-shot ineffable turrets rise the tide whelms
and pivots praise the hustle the shuck and jive
praise the boulevard’s riot of light who knows his homeland
from these littered streets hold on to your wallet
and don’t look no one in the eye now night lowers
its thickening grit and incoming flights beacon the sky
who can tell his life from this rabble of announcement
from Sin City “Open for Lunch” Kotz Bros. Welding
Raju & Sons 24-hour Tow HairHealth Inc. Nick’s Locks
and Hindleman’s Smoke Shop from no other paradise but here

 

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