‘The smoke hung over the city like an old, tattered blanket. The darkness had crept in long ago, seeping into the rivets in the cracked concrete sidewalks. A pigeon perched within an elm tree, its ruby red eyes gleaming with curiosity. He had seen many things over the past few years, and it was time for him to share his experiences.’
I. “The City Park”
The rusty swing set stands alone, swaying in the breeze.
The rusty chain grips tightly, the security of the young who
squeal as they sway towards the sky, attempting to
kick at the clouds as their tiny legs flail.
The ducklings peek their downy heads out from among the reeds,
and swans delicately glide across the glistening pond.
She sits on the edge of the park bench,
her long chocolate brown hair hiding the almond shaped face.
I wonder if she notices me, a plump gray fellow perched within
the tree opposite her, providing her shade from the blazing sun.
The aroma of the vendors envelop us in a warm haze,
and the carousel music wavers through the air, an endless, incessant tune,
as the world continues to journey through the amusement ride called Life.
II. “Down Main Street”
‘The city bustles with activity. It’s rush hour, and everyone seems to be pushing towards their own path, intertwining like vines on the side of the old apartment buildings. The coincidence of the matter is that the city goes through the same routine every day. I wonder if the people ever get bored with their lives, with their schedules? Do they ever wonder what would happen if time stopped, and they were able to look at the whole frozen picture, intact, and find their place in this part of the world every single day…’
At four, Main Street bustles with activity;
the mothers pick up their children from the elementary school at the corner,
the business men parade down the boulevard,
an endless tide of black and white,
and the grocers prepare for market.
The freshest fruits and vegetables are set out,
and every outside eye feasts upon the vast array of hues,
the pigments that make the avenue come alive
and bask in the inner city heat.
Flower vendors set up their carts,
the shouts of newspaper boys and the roasted nut vendors
become more apparent over the rest of the bustle.
Sometimes, the public relishes the view of a ventriloquist
or the guitarist who plays lonesome songs on the curbside,
wailing out beautiful, sad tunes that hypnotize the people
into throwing in that extra dollar bill.
Most enjoyably, though, is when the bistros get ready for business,
and the waitresses sweep up the dust outside the doorways,
which gets swept up in the wind, a kaleidoscope of colors.
Bread crumbs, crushed flower petals, leaves, strings, and the
glitter from the players’ costumes of the theater down the stretch,
all making up the threads that hold this scene together.
III. “An Apartment Building”
‘I’ve noticed that many of the citizens crowd into tall buildings. They acquire small areas of living space to raise their families. They each have their own stories that I can indulge in, and I love to watch the people grow and change. My particular favorite apartment building is a brick structure, comprised of eighteen different levels. It has a large glass door with a burgundy awning, and it is referred to as “The Heights.”’
The Heights towers above the lane,
each window pane painfully scrubbed to a perfect
sheet of gleaming glass.
The iron balconies provide a perfect perch for me to rest upon,
and I peer into each window, relishing in the view
of the lives I glance into.
On floor eight, Mr. Peterson lives alone,
a balding man of fifty-seven,
who prefers solitude, a glass of red sherry, and soft jazz music,
preferably all in the same setting.
He frequently plays his piano, his long, bony fingers flying over
the glistening ivory and polished ebony,
crashing out tunes of thunderstorms and wild horses,
and softly tapping out melodies of sunshine, seashores, and love.
The Klein family resides on the twelfth floor,
a bustling house filled with children’s laughter,
blaring television shows, and
many unkempt rooms.
There are times when Mr. Klein drinks a bit too much,
and sits blankly in his chair, holding a cigar,
and Mrs. Klein silently weeps.
Down on the third floor,
Cassandra Berlin frequently has visitors.
Her girlfriends come over during the day,
and they play card games, while their laughter echoes throughout
the open window, trailing wafts of musky perfume.
During the evening, Cassandra often lounges on the balcony,
her dress flowing in the breeze as she leans over,
watching the line of traffic that winds beneath her building.
There are some nights when she rushes around the living room,
dims the lights and sets up glowing white candles,
and a man comes in through the doorway, and her face lights up,
her glossy white teeth smiling.
I cannot say if it’s always the same man,
because it sometimes seems as though the man is tall and dark-haired,
and sometimes short and fair-haired,
and sometimes average with brown curls.
But the lights can play tricks as they flicker and dance about the room,
she always draws the royal purple drapes closed,
as they continue their evening activities.
IV. “The Slums”
‘I become a bit more nostalgic as I travel further towards the East Side, and the buildings crumble and deteriorate right before my eyes.
‘The streets are dark, and rats commonly skitter across the sidewalks. It is hard to tell where you are and exactly where you are going, because everything looks the same. There are no street signs to point you in the right direction, because they were torn off by the boy down the street to sell as scrap metal for college money. Most likely, the boy wasn’t able to go to college, and he was caught destroying the street signs and ended up being stuck back here, anyways.’
The path is crooked, and broken into crumbling chunks
as the people try to swiftly walk through the grungy street.
This is the place in the city where no one wants to find themselves;
where hunger lurks and death creeps in silently,
and where thirst and loneliness are common visitors.
The apartment buildings are overcrowded, and hosts to insects and
vermin, both of which skitter about at the same consistency that
the water trickles down the rusty faucets.
Light bulbs flicker, and there is extreme heat in the summer
and terrifyingly cold drafts in the winter.
The smoke stacks are the dismal backdrop to this scene,
for we are situated right behind the hulking factories,
with their billowing clouds of dark black ash.
It is no wonder that the sewage water that
leaks throughout the entire setting
is black and putrid, with a slimy coat of oil
that slowly swirls its tendrils like fingers,
grasping each plant and choking it
to its death.
The people are unkempt,
with greasy hair and blackened faces,
for most do not have the facilities
to bathe their aching figures.
The children are made of bones and haunting smiles,
and their playground is the pile of old tires and sharp metal beams
left behind by those who do not want them.
This place is for the rejected and the neglected,
the people society deems ‘social misfits,’
the people with true emotions and compassion.
They are the ones who die daily,
and the ones who won’t be remembered,
no matter how providing they were.
‘There are many aspects of the city I cannot stand. Plainly, I hate the unjustness that occurs daily, whether physically or emotionally. I see people deteriorate right before my eyes, sometimes even faster than the people in the slums. The city can be a terrifying place, for there are many places for one to meet their demise. It is sad to be a bystander to these horrific events, and to be forced to be silent by matters out of your own hands.’
The city falls silent
as the man pulls the trigger, and
the red blossoms on the other man’s chest.
The prejudice, the hatred, the gangs
are common to me, and it is not
a shock to see the killings occur.
To the public,
it’s just another victim,
just another tragedy,
just another heartbreaking story.
The compassion lasts for an hour, a day, a week,
and then normality comes back,
and the world continues.
The cars come too quickly,
and the mother watches in horror,
too stunned to make an action,
as her small child skips out onto the crosswalk playfully,
and the child is no longer living.
The men are drunk,
and the women are plentiful,
the police step in this time
before the bar brawl gets too out of control.
There are fights,
and robberies daily.
But, what seems the saddest of all
is the art student
who’s been picked on, who cannot pay the rent,
whose parents died young, whose future looks grim,
and who is now gone, because he hung himself
due to the dire circumstances.
To have life taken away so easily,
with not a lot of people to care.
Or, perhaps, the most distressing
is the young girl who is walking home
from her studies at the library,
who is grabbed by the man,
and taken behind the corner,
and whose dignity is stolen,
who can only let the tears fall down,
let the burning knife of reality twist in further,
and pray that justice will be served.
‘Another intricate story is that of the homeless, the beggars that sit on the street and hope for a rescue. Money and sympathy do not seem to be enough. They need to acquire love and a place for them to continue to try to live and prosper. I see the young and the old being set out onto the street daily. There are unwanted babies, neglected children, the drunks that have run out of luck, and the elderly who have been forgotten. All of these people have value to their lives and need to find some way to continue to survive.’
The old woman sits on the corner of Emerson and Shimerville,
a lump of blankets, dishrags, and newspaper,
with grimy gray hair and watery hazel eyes,
watches the people pass her without a glance.
She was the daughter of a butcher,
and the sister of a lawyer.
She was a good student,
and a trustworthy friend.
She went to college,
became a teacher,
and had seven boyfriends
because of her young beauty.
She had sparkling hazel eyes,
curly blonde hair,
and plump, full, peachy lips.
She had three dogs,
a wonderful husband,
and two children,
both of which lived in the countryside.
Now, she sits by an old doorway,
shivering with cold, covered with sweat,
her limbs trembling with old age.
Her fingers are knotted,
and her ankles are swollen.
She has not eaten a meal for four days;
her last drink was a trickle of rain water
sliding down the gutter, into her waiting mouth,
with its secret still intact.
If a passerby gave her the time of day,
Betsy Lindbergh would once again show a piece of the world
her wonderfully cheerful smile.
‘If a person took the time to just glance at the city skyline at night, one would be inspired in many ways. It is not just the dazzling lights, but the events that occur within the shining nighttime moments. It is the biggest thrill to soar throughout the nighttime sky, under a full moon, and view how the city crawls alive at night, all the way through the next morning. Any city person does not have to be an expert to know the city never sleeps. The city is a living, breathing creature, and I believe its beautiful, shimmering skyline to be its heartbeat.’
The bulbs flash and shimmer in a sparkling light show,
overpowering the natural beauty of the quiet luminous stars in the sky.
The sheet of black velvet is overlaid by all of the city’s nighttime activity;
lovers sit within boats and yachts in the harbor,
a mass of twinkle lights glowing upon the rippling waters,
sweethearts sit on park benches,
holding hands as they listen to the sounds of the night.
Music surrounds everything.
The clubs boom with their deejay mixes,
bands perform on outdoor stages,
singers sway within the jazz halls,
theatres perform evening musicals,
and street musicians croon their last performance.
Airplanes still fly overhead,
and cars still fly over the golden bridge,
illuminating everything in sight.
The city is connected by all of these strings of lights,
all of these different people,
all of these different talents,
all of these different events.
The city is the place we call home, and where we’ll always belong.
VIII. “The Last Train”
‘My train will leave this morning. There will be no more travels to the slums, no more encounters with the bustling Main Street, no more enjoyable moments near the harbor. I will not be awakened by the endless music and nighttime activities, nor will I visit my homeless friends to give them comfort. I will be gone, and I cannot return. I will no longer be a bystander to the city’s events. I will always belong to the city, but my light has vanished. The breakdown of my city has reached its final chapter. I am just another city story that has come to a close.’
This poem was written for my Creative Writing class my sophomore year. These types of poems are based off of the band Rush’s song, 2112. They include a dialogue introduction and then a poem, continuing on as long as the story continues. The end of the poem can either be an actual poem or a closing dialogue.
I really liked the way this piece flowed together… if you didn’t notice, it was told from the viewpoint of a pigeon. I tried to highlight all of the aspects of society that I worry about. I think it’s very important to sometimes focus more on the negatives within subjects, because exposing that which could be improved helps lead to progress and awareness, no matter how small the effect.
I suppose you might see this as the finale of my poetry series, but don’t fret! We have not reached the end of celebrating National Poetry Month yet. 😀