RUSTED FIRE ESCAPE
(Tu Fu, the Tang Dynasty Poet of Suburban Wasteland America Considers Urban Hi-rise Development)
In the business improvement district
new high-rise construction emerges
like vertical sprawl;
chain-coffee outlets and bagels
fuel the ill-fitted rack suits with
breakfast before the sales pitch;
laminated i.d. badges hang from
slacks, packs and purse straps,
counterpoint for iPhone chatter;
chain retail stores do not increase
foot traffic, but more bikes help
diminish the exhaust pipes;
in the business improvement district,
daytime city workers power-polish
the sidewalks clean;
but as midnight hits, the tweakers,
gangsters and pimps once again
spill to the surface;
with sports apparel, teeth missing,
backward jeans, and scraggly
pets on ropes, they swarm;
I sleep on a rusted fire escape
with Li Po and Tu Fu in my pocket
as the sirens get closer.
Earl of Parchment the First,
color of faded canary,
articulated with regal strokes of brush,
flattened between stylized glass,
from your floating frame.
Anointed with scholarly oil,
your fragrance exudes the hauteur of expertise,
as you anticipate a path,
with blinders on,
And you also, the next one,
Earl of Parchment the Second,
your archival matting slightly less faded,
your frame all the more bejeweled,
your calligraphy blacker than the Ace of Spades,
you strike a masterly tone.
Double embossed you remain,
adding another abbreviation to the hauteur,
oiling those career laneways,
enabling balls to carom toward the pins of retirement.
Yes, to both of you,
Sirs, I say:
We are thankful for your predictions,
but our knowledge will not survive us in frames.
We shall learn from the gardens and the subways,
from butlers and sewer rats, the native and the exotic.
We shall emerge in test labs, bakeries, editing suites,
concert halls and machine shops.
We shall absorb knowledge like a sponge.
We do not tether ourselves to one specialty.
We are not beat writers. We are not attached.
We dissolve the attachments.
Sirs of parchment,
Your sons will not rest between polished glass
and tidy angular plaques. We shall not reduce
ourselves to abbreviations, but replenish ourselves
in laboratories and on easels, in business boardrooms
and symphonic halls, with the weeds and the lotuses,
in the muddiest of mires and bluest bodies of water.
THE KING OF SAN FERNANDO STREET
Desk and chair, all sizes of wrong,
hell of ergonomic in the dusty flat.
Software, processor of words,
blank in the morning, a spell of stir crazy
forces departure onto the pavement.
Down San Fernando Street
the King parades to the call of ravens
in the craggy sycamores, garbage trucks,
the urban squirrels, university tower bells
and leaf blowers from cheapskate landlords.
To a brutal cabaret of airbound leaves, dust,
motor oil and yoga hotties en route to class,
the King parades down San Fernando.
To the chattering coffee-stained teeth
of university facilities and development
peeps on break across the street,
by the café, the King wanders.
Songs from the homeless shelter—oh yeah,
it’s a church—tucked behind City Hall,
ignored by everyone. The Asian senior center,
the crotch-grabbing jock bar on the corner,
cigarette butts, puddles of puke from the
previous night’s illiterate conversation:
soundtracks while the King prowls
through the mire of San Fernando.
Hiphop headphones implanted
on students as they approach
the university. Attorneys and their
urban briefcases, gold plated,
on their path to enrich every local
real estate crook from decades past.
Through a broken stoplight
and endless construction
the King agitates down San Fernando.
This regal route dead-ends at the station,
where the next bardo stage lies waiting.
To fix the stir crazy impatience,
the King bids au revoir to San Fernando
and opens a brand new processor of words
in a tea shop, to an exotic loose leaf blend
on a couch, with better ergonomics
and better dust that settles.
Gary Singh is an award-winning travel journalist with a music degree who publishes poetry, paints and exhibits photographs. As a scribe, he’s written nearly 1000 works including travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry and short fiction. Every week for ten years, he’s penned the Silicon Alleys column for Metro, San Jose’s alt-weekly newspaper. Currently, he is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press). His website is: http://www.garysingh.info
Cover Photo: akahawkerefan (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dclmeyer/)