Genius Loci

Make it
the place
it was then,

so full it split
vision to live
there in winter

so late & wet
abundance
toppled toward

awful—birds
of paradise
a profusion

the ripe colors
of anodized
metal; in gutters

umbrellas
smashed
like pigeons,

bent ribs bright
among black
slack fluttering;

camellias'
pink imagoes
dropping

into water
& rotting,
sweet stink—

& did not
stop :
the inundated

eye, over-
populous
urban eye,

the whole
place, to look
at it, was

a footprint
in January :
everywhere

cloudy water
rising to fill in
the outlines,

& meanwhile
indoors differed
by degree

alone : without
love, loosed
from God,

there were
lovers & touch
rushing in

to redraw
your boundaries
constantly

because
it was a tune
you kept

getting wrong,
the refrain
of what it meant

to live alone,
months of that
and then
.
sudden summer, sheer release, streets all cigarettes & sashay,
balls-out tube tops, low-riders & belly fat, the girls on the block
all like Oh no she didn't, and girl, she did, she was mad skills
with press-ons & a cell phone telling him where to stick it, a kid

on her hip, just like that, summer, sheer beauty & lip gloss
that smelled like peaches, & you going to the store for whiskey
& condoms like everyone else on a hot, long afternoon
so long & hot it would just be sunburn to walk anywhere if it weren't also

a pleasure, thoughtless & shiftless & horny & drunk,
just someone thinking summer wasn't up to anything deep, & lo
there he was, his punk ass pink as a Viking in a tight
wifebeater & lingering by the public pool, drinking beer so sly

it didn't look illegal, & he wasn't a good idea but
did you have a light? & it seemed the whole summer went like that,
taking fire out of your pocket & giving it away, a ditty
you could whistle it was so cliché, like the numbers they gave you after

& you never called, the number of swollen nodes of the kissing
colds you got & later the number to call to get tested, the number of the bus
to the clinic, the number they gave you when they asked
you to wait, the number of questions asked, number of partners, number

of risks, number of previous tests, the number of pricks
—one—to draw the blood, the number of minutes you waited before
results, & then you decided you had to get the tune right,
the how to live it so it doesn't kill you, to take a number & wait in the long line

of the city's bankrupt humanism like the bus that never comes
no matter how long you wait, & the grocery bag breaking, & if you were going
to sing that one, the one that sounds like all I got is bruised
tomatoes, broken glass & dirty bread & no one waiting at home, would you
.
start with genius,
as in, the spirit
of a place?,

& small, as in
of the back, wet
in heat

& the urge
to touch him
there, skin

just visible
between his jeans
& t-shirt,

to see if
he's sweating,
to see

if he feels
what you feel?,
& if he does,

is that all
the spirit the place
will give,

a small thing
shared, just
a phrase, not

a whole song,
but something
to build on?,

& if it isn't bread
& if it sure
ain't tomatoes

it isn't empty,
is it, like the signage
you walk by

that fronts
the Lakeside
Church of Practical

Christianity,
hawking
a knowledge of God

so modest
it seems trivial?,
& it isn't ever,

is it, the how
to live it
so it doesn't

kill you,
the where
to touch it,

the when
will genius
sing your name

so it sounds
like a place
you can live?

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