want to loveYou've known for the last forty miles
on Interstate-95 that by the time you get
to Aramingo Avenue you'll be angry
at General Motors for burning up
all the Mack busses and the green striped
trolleys, and at the concrete lobby
for selling hotels and mobility to
a clubby bunch of Babbitt individualists.
At Girard, where you snake off
into your favorite Philadelphia,
your Firestones skidding over the glassy
tracks laid down between granite
cobbles by an arrival of fresh Sicilians
a hundred years ago, you'll remember
that Lewie Mumford was right about
the car being the death of cities. It was
the first rose, red and beautiful, American.
And before you hit the plywood district,
before you hit the bombed-out Schmidts
Brewery and the old Jewish neighborhoods
now lined with flag and gun shop Joes and
crackhouses and that one skinny whore with
a mouthful of rotten teeth, you remember
that you want to love this city.
You grind your teeth a little bit, maybe rip
a little flesh from your lower lip, and about
a block beyond Hope you left onto Second
and head for art at the Painted Bride at Vine.
If you're honest this is where you begin to cry.
Old City, they call it. If only it were Prague.
And you've questioned it a hundred times
and you keep on hearing the answers always
making as much sense as before: what the fuck
happened here? Whd's fucking train derailed
through this neighborhood? And how long's
it been gone? And who's fire's comin'
next time, anyway? Mountains? Tell what
on what mountain? It's not even a decent
pork chop hill. It's a fucking moon crater
for forty years already. You're fucking kidding.
It's then you curse: the no parking, the parking
from eight a.m. to six-thirty p.m. Monday or
Wednesday or Thursday except, and Saturday
and Sunday and no goddam parking anytime
because it's a sacred tow away zone from here
to Detroit, home of holy blasphemy and liars.
You want to remember, you, before you
escaped to the empty suburbs, what it was like.
You want to love your neighbor, the way
your mother loved Mrs. Fritz two doors down
at 1516, who spent untold hours in oppressive
lonely humidity in a rowhouse brickie in
Northern Liberties because she didn't have a
few lousy bucks for a caved-in front porch.
You think of her, and your mother, wheezing
from all that airborne fuzz molded into a fine
Stetson fitted for a Dilworth or a Cecil B. Moore.
She did it for you, loved her neighbors even
if they were Republicans, and you know it,
and you wonder how in the hell you're going
to face her when she's frozen in the Schuylkill
schist behind Bob's Diner on Ridge Avenue.
You, living in Pheasant Run, driving a green Chevy.
You try as hard as you can, you keep it before you
and stare into it like that bug-eyed Rizzo poster
in Pat Edna's on Manayunk and Vassar and you
get up to piss and look into that filthy mirror ---
you remember: you want to love this city.
And you do and you mean it and you cry for it and
you swear it. You do. For the love of your friends
still living here in the impossible, goddamn it you do.--- Poems and photographs by
Martin J. Desht ,New Letters,
5100 Rockhill, Kansas City 64110