Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chasing Pavements

My love affair with you, oh city of disparaging dreams,
Began on a Tuesday morning in December 1985
That snowy 17th you cradled me in your gritty arms
And I called you Home

I know there are some who prefer the country
Who delight in the vast expanses of hill and vale
But I prefer the dirt and the concrete
The crush of people and the incessant pulse of the city
I love the busyness of it all, the start and stop of things
The vivacious rhythm that one can only find in the urban oasis
I can’t be without it, the hushed sound of the streets calling my name
Without you, my humbled city, I am lost

I grew up in awe of your stoic presence
In the shadow that your brick and stucco edifice cast
I navigated the throng of the metropolitan playground

My hand safely tucked in my mother’s as I adventured about town
There was a great deal to see in my glittering world of you
And I tried to drink you in as much as I could, my shimmering jewel of a city
I was immersed in the wide eyed infatuation of a child

I lay in bed at night, lulled to sleep by the sound of traffic
Of airplanes flying low overhead
I could hear the hustlers making their money on the corner
The whispered lyrics of the inner city song
Noisy mufflers and women shouting provided the music
Breaking bottles and distant gunshots were the refrain

As I grew older I took you for granted
My dingy, dirty ramshackle city of broken dreams
The glittering gems of my youth were now, in my eyes of lost innocence
Nothing more than cracked and lackluster shards of poorly painted glass
I turned up my nose at your boarded up window fronts
When I should have lamented at your crumbling plaster shame
I scoffed at your downtrodden children, dirty and astray
Who slept in your doorframes and street grates
When I should have wept for your former glory instead
I turned my back on you in your most dire hour

I didn’t know your pain at the time
I was only focused on my immediate moment

Suburban daydreams, green grasses and strip malls
White picket fences and the empty lies of a charlatan fool
When I should have listened to your concrete whispers
Calling me back to the ones who truly loved me instead
It took a broken heart and shattered dreams
To make me find my love for you again
I promised you, my aching city, that I would never turn my back again

So I teach my son the illustrious history of your youth
The shining glory of your golden age
I show him your proud buildings from an era long since past
I tell him that through your tarnish there still is beauty
Though many see it and are confused
They fail to realize that in your dimmed magnificence there is a promising future
That in your veins runs the possibility of change anew
They fail to see that you still breathe, my damaged city
They choose instead to give up on themselves and on you
And thus, in their ignorance they blatantly abuse you

They break your heart with a sudden blast
Violently and instantaneously snuffing out the life
Of another of your bright and promising children
With a cowardly leaden bullet
And they seem to forget that when your rough concrete skin is splashed
With their innocent blood you die a little too, my fading city
A hundred thousand tiny crimson deaths
Beading and congealing in your cemented pores

And your people, they cry out in pain
They scream and bemoan their anguish to the skies
They cry out and leave vestiges of their sorrow
In the teddy bears and flowers they leave on the side of the pavement
The dates painted on windows in memoriam of those they loved
Ribbons tied to utility poles, silent reminders of those who left one day
And never came home
Makeshift memorials in a guerrilla war on a deteriorating city
Where the right and wrong sides were never truly made clear

And it hurts you too, though you cannot cry
For no mother should have to stand idly by
And helplessly watch her children die
Especially over something so meaningless and insignificant
As cars or clothes or foolish, fragile pride

But you raise your head, Cleveland
For although they have beaten you down,
The dreamless assassin has not yet won
You are beautiful yet, and still strong and proud
And through all the tears and dirt and blood
Amid the crumbling concrete and shattered glass, I still hear your music
In the voices of the ones who refuse to back down
The song of the city continues to be sung
You shall carry on, Cleveland.
You shall carry on.
                                             --"Words of Hope for My City"

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Nice writing! You should come and join the Poetry Bus on Mondays.


I'm a shallow person, so I love to hear what you have to say about me...Lavish me with praise, or rip me up and make me want to cry.