PROJECTIVE: City In A Word
We saw the profiles of clouds
through the porticos and
a foreign word came quickly [eleutheria]
to mind, Yes
are the occupants
they have lived here among us
nearer than protozoa
We live our lives where we go
to work in one era, or place,
or historical moment, and
at the end of the day
return to another.
they moved into our brainpans, altered
our minds over millennia
Harps, oyez, Summary.
In a puritanical, Western culture,
there' s a prejudice
that if it' s not a familiar form, or
if it can' t be reduced
to a certain kind of meaning
for everybody, then it' s obtuse. That' s
the prejudice against
art, a city and its projective
is a resident tongue,
from beyond all of space.
Between subtle shading
and the absence
lies the nuance of combining.
May it come to rest
bare fruit, a miracle Sticks to hackles
ways of hands at work
tugging yarn snug on the loom
and cutting free. We have come
to the inside-out of myth much depends on water
as if one morning suddenly
but normally enough, without a word
the river stopped.
[Since the flood, studies have been conducted,
retaining walls were built,
seventeen feet of rock was removed
from the floor of the river
allowing greater volumes of flood waters
to pass through downtown.
Then the damn was reconstructed,
not for flood-control, but to raise
the level of the river behind it
to maintain a constant ten foot depth
for the canal boats entering the river
for the downtown dock]
He has managed
to make the viewer
aware of a variety of environmental
and political issues
without seeming heavy-handed
or overbearing. It is his
willingness to confront
mystery head on
that draws us to his work.
Building a city has nothing to do
with architecture. Fundamentally a city' s
an abstract phenomenon, built out of legal
formations of property lines, economic arrangements,
social relations and political conditions. Not
a question of architecture.
weather in the heart of number.
[The evolution of the city: only a few
settlers' cabins overlooked the falls.
Cows grazed in the meadows that became
the site of the power plant and later
the city' s public laser shows.
Water power was then replaced by electricity
generated from the river.
The power plant untethered factories
from the banks of the river
Near the end of the last century
meadows returned to a grassy lawn
to serve as a public park.]
Everything that makes us
what we are
in a sense is the way
things are understood; how
they fit together
in ways that have
not been understood before. Only
chance can bring
together new combinations
in a way that' s revolutionary.
Some have ceased searching
in the cemetery
of a too sacredly cherished past. They
are seeking to solve their problems
rather by a process of elimination, using the most
elementary forms and materials readiest at hand.
In thus facing their difficulty they are
recreating their chosen art, and
not abrogating it.
If you show us your thinking
there is nothing to attend to
without a story
the mind can do nothing with thinking.
We can' t have our identity
reside in one thing. The thing
that we master
will become a stranger to us,
and we will outlive it or we will
need to live into something else.
The doors of the subway car
remain open a brief uncertain time,
sitting there, can you tell from
who is getting on and who is
getting out which way to go?
Examine, traveler, and sit still.
Slowly, desperately, slowly,
the remains of passage debris
that encumbered the lower
part of the doorway was
removed. With trembling hands
I made a tiny breach
in the upper left-hand
corner. And then, widening
the hole a little, I
inserted the candle
and peered in. The hot air
escaping from the chamber
caused the flame to flicker,
but presently details of the room
emerged from the mist. X
Can you see anything? Q Keys:
three separate transpositions.
We are always trying
to educate ourselves
to the complexity
of our feelings
as they grow, and we
don' t want to do
something twice, really.
[The design of a chair, the design
of a building and the design of a city
should be viewed as variations
of the very same problem, size alone
being the only thing which distinguishes
furniture design from the construction
of buildings and the construction of
buildings from city planning. Everything
may be understood this way: poetry, novels,
Of course one has to go to Eternity
thaws where they keep most words
nowadays, on rotation,
especially in the Elysian parts
eying skeptically at other skills
[warping remote is good for you]
and find pictures ashen and image desolate
museum photos in deep sepia
[The river is under control of the damn:
it' s south entrance to the city
offers a spectacular view of the skyline.]
Truly, truly us.
couldn' t speak of discovery
of the unknown
We have to
make a room
inside our own ego
for what we
don' t yet understand,
and hold open the possibility
that this is
what we' re actually
protracted retain you
now deliver you
to sleep after conveying
the lot of diffidence
the force is different,
their consolation absorbed
[ In the years following the war,
the number of private cars dramatically increased:
roads were expanded, new ones built
to the growing suburbs.]
We could say that
inadvertently, then feeling
guilt and remorse
of melodramatic proportions,
is one of our culture' s
most cherished masculine roles.
Much literature is devoted
the inner lives
of lovable brutes.
Shut-up inside words
or following them,
two threads of contention
lyric and not.
[Public markets have been a mainstay
since the beginning of the settlements
providing a ready market for farmers
selling to city residents.
Varieties of plants and foods unavailable
anywhere else could be found there.
Immigrants found ready buyers
for the foods once used in their homelands.
Vegetables that did not sell
were peddled through the streets
of residential neighborhoods.]
Exquisite knot, desires visit my sleep.
Pitch in black
call this firm
So many names
stated honorary formal
so-called allude titular
indicate simple apparent
call going coming
sleep bleeds in the black
[ Agoraphobic tendencies are
shared by all classes: a union boss has a chauffeur,
and can choose
between mingling with people
in the street or not to.
He is an independent, and when
all is said and done as suspicious
of the intractable urban condition
as is the industrialist.]
Remember City. The night she lay
on the bed beside birth
chaste in the bindle stiff hotel,
a scandal beyond the reach of theology,
that they would dare to touch,
that they would do no more than touch?
What does it mean when to a small nowhere city
the gods come calling, jostling
and goosing people on the street, whistling, spitting
and walking nude their fawns in shabby parks,
splashing through the fountain under the mean
monument to the Civil War dead?
In doorways, racists gibber at such antic beauty.
[ Through wars steeled city dwellers survived
hardships while working closely together,
working in industry around the clock;
and at home, rationed, recycled and made-do.
When the wars ended, people gathered
around the downtown newsstands to read
the EXTRA that was printed by the newspaper.]
We were there. This is the mercy-seat. We sat
by turns on musical chairs. The chairs
were made of water
and felt like glass knees when we sat down.
In holiness we sat and read and governed
and the afternoons stretched out at our feet and stared
[ The city in the midst of urban renewal
construction of expressways
the Inner and Outer Loops
carrying suburban travelers and city residents
to and from work and shopping and expanding
the range of population.]
Art is nature selected, arranged, sublimated,
triply refined, but still nature,
however refracted in and by consciousness.
Respite between renaissances.
Respite for marble and rest for gold
the postcards for tourists streak through disposed fields
in the magic starry, starry night
where dark hopes study the rising moon.
We do not remember the general destruction,
the demolition sites and the temporary road bridges
over the vast craters in the ground where the bridge
and the tender loin used to be. We do not remember
everything being ugly, messy and out of order.
The city is invisible; a picture, a piece of paper,
a poster is more vivid in our memory
than the reality, than the city in which the poster is put up.
The image is visible, where the city is invisible.
[ Years later, urban renewal became
more intense as riots made clear
the urgency of the need for more
adequate housing, employment and education
for the newly arrived residents.]
We crossed all those rivers.
born for bridges,
privileging crossing over,
wanting to walk in the sky,
you can do it, one great gesture
Motor people, motoring, motored
over sacred moving waters,
dowsing selves over water-tables.
[ The completed expressway heads west into the city
to the Outer Loop which starts
at the Theme Park, then making an S-turn,
swinging into the abandoned subway-canal bed,
Geometry is an inexhaustible well
of formal beauty from which to fill our bucket;
but before the draught is fit for use
it should be examined, analyzed, filtered
through the consciousness of the artist.
We have a city
but lost it in a city
looked us in the eye
We had a city once
and in rivers it got washed away
down the evolution
while we watched the gravestones bend in prayer
We will have a city
warm in our taste like a bite of tomorrow
so sweet and thick the meaningful, the juice of its engine
dribbling down our chins, our chests
so everyone who sees us will know,
smiling at us until we swallow it
We have a city to last
a kind of shapely pouting silence
a bunch of words beyond our grasp
all we could do was build them so we did.
June - August 2000