Cities! Cities! I have lived
in cities: habitual, arrogant,
cities circumscribed by cities,
on the alert for alacrity,
filled with false vitality,
rising revised out of history,
burgeoning cities bloated
with stoic pride, notorious
for hope, filled with ethical travail.
These cities, yes, but also
cities reticent, inferential,
embedded with desuetude.
A decade here, a decade there,
to what end? Position. Man needs
locus, not looseness, in his life.
What’s a road? A swift excuse
for a city at each end. What is
not a city? Nothing.
Socrates lived in a city.
So did Meyer Lansky. The city
rose against them. That’s what
cities do; they rise,
sometimes in us,
sometimes against us.
The city rises in me.
I hear it whisper.
I ignore its roar.
Be subversive in your chores.
Knock at the door of indecency and demand to be let in.
Factor in your final calculations the weight of longing among the self-assured.
Do not fob off.
Keep a second set of books for Raphael.
Wash with emotion, then with good soap.
Expose those for whom freedom is greed.
Scour the future so as to inure it.
Change the air in your protocol every time you crave a tattoo.
Lock your knees before you do anything wily.
Wear linen at funerals.
Hands off the secret levers of the world.
Watch out for the kids of Narcissus.
No one who saw the beautiful Mercedes
in the summer of 1966 could ever forget her.
When she walked into Café Danglars, heads turned.
I was sent upstate for two years for passing unpopular
checks, but when I got out, I went back to the Café
just to catch a glimpse of her again. It took a month
but she did return. I was there that day, sitting at
the counter in my Bermuda shorts, sucking a 7-Up.
The screen door slowly opened. I was expecting the second
coming of perfection. Not quite. She was bloated like a
bagel. Her thighs looked like freezer bags filled with dimes.
There was no necklace anywhere that could fit around that neck.
Two years earlier, she was real money, a class investment.
When she ate up all her principal, well, we lost interest.
The doctor diagnosed it as walking pneumonia
but Cid knew better. He had (hadn’t he?)
suffered trauma when Marguerite died of AIDS.
Jesus, he was in a coma. Except he could see.
And hear. And feel. Walk around. And talk.
Damn it, it was. A kind of walking coma.
One where he could remember but not
exactly remember, communicate but not really
communicate, exist but not fully exist.
Then one day all the symptoms just vanished.
He stopped using, got his CDL, drove to Reno,
married a dealer, agreed to raise her kid.
It’s possible to forgive the past its trespasses
stop seeing the future as a threat, reimagine
the present as a goal. Yes, resurrection happens.
© Bill Yarrow
Photo © Stratos Fountoulis, “Plateia Derveni, August 2011”
Bill Yarrow is the author of Pointed Sentences, a full-length collection of poems published by BlazeVOX in 2012 and two chapbooks–Wrench published by Erbacce Press in 2009 and Fourteen, published by Naked Mannekin Press in 2011. He has been published in many print and online journals including Poetry International, PANK, Thrush, DIAGRAM, Contrary, and RHINO. He is a Professor of English at Joliet Junior College where he teaches creative writing, film, and Shakespeare, all online. Two chapbooks (Twenty from MadHat Press and Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku from Červená Barva Press) are forthcoming in 2013.