The way to Philadelphia
Mismatched rowhouses, each a different color, none quite right.
We immediately understand that the grandmothers of us all
live here, behind the bars on the windows. They own
useless crocheted things, keep embroidered pillowcases
in the back of the drawer, offer cut-glass dishes of candies
that you won’t be able to find in 30 years,
not even on a nostalgic rampage,
because everyone who used to buy them is dead.
There is no market for them.
Tastes have changed
We know without asking
that the neighborhood will get really bad when all the grandmas die
then the gays will eventually move in and it will get really good.
There will be more flowers than ever, once the gay community arrives.
Also fewer cats, more dogs and cookbooks and parades
Not far away are the projects, which need to be very ugly
and built in the 1970s. We know without asking
that an architect was not consulted.
This kind of accountability is important to taxpayers.
There are no flowers or trees. The grass is burned out.
The people here often eat at McDonald’s
because it's cheap and there’s no market:
the nearest grocery is a 20-minute bus ride.
You will probably not hang out here unless it’s where you were born
in which case you might not leave
Insert by the river, by the train tracks: assorted empty factory buildings
with broken windows, collapsing walls, second-rate graffiti.
These are the minuses. The pluses are the ghosts
which take no effort to conjure. Little Lewis Hine kids in knee pants,
dirty faces, big wet Sicilian eyes.
Don’t worry if you see them.
They don’t want anything from you
Insert above the broken windows, on the collapsing walls:
faded signs with words like purveyors and modern and confections
lettered in beautiful typefaces that nobody uses anymore.
Enjoy these, when you come across them. Tastes have changed
The prison that’s next to the casino that’s next to the nondescript yellow building
whose sign, lit from behind, spells COMMUNITY
Churches whose towers look like they are wearing weird little beach hats.
Churches whose spires look like hypodermic needles.
Churches that double as prison towers, as casinos, as rehabilitation centers.
Some of them have bars on the windows. All of them lock their doors at night
The glow of the water-processing plant
where all of the buildings are transformed by light
the color of marshmallow circus peanuts.
Where all of the buildings are round
like some kind of industrial mother of us all