from: Atlas

            What might have happened?

[That crisp morning of blue sky
we walked to the western terminus
of N. 7th through the chain link to the
abandoned waterfront and the broken
piers, Snickers nosing through the debris
for whatever dogs seek in the ground

the sweeping vista of Manhattan
an untaxed perk of the Northside
where the night before we watched
the fireworks from the roof
of The Dorm on 242 Wythe,
a recent sweatshop next to
a cement factory (owned
by the Mob!) ]

Williamsburg, 1997

surfacing from the L,
the four corners of N 7th and Bedford Av:

            -      Superior Market
            -      Salvation Army Thrift Store
            -      Northside Pharmacy
            -      Deli Mart

walking down Bedford against traffic,
past the L Cafe and the block of five-
story brownstones, three-tall
on the west (for that brown-and-
white striped awning: a thousand
hearts will break for Greenpoint
Tavern (TK
(to come)
the city in a perpetual state
of manifesting,
an infinite university))

            more of a love letter to Williamsburg

to the left Serrano Bros Realty,
Matamoros Puebla and Veracruz,
to the right S&B and Wing Lee
(red sans serif on white,
the inside not much to look at
(mostly tiles, two small tables
and possibly 4 mismatched

north by northwest
up North 6th:

            -      the NYC Transit System building with the grid of blue rectangles on brick
            -      the Del Sol Cafe
            -      Berk-Lombardo Packing Co
            -      Rojo Quality Meats
            -      Tops Gourmet Market
            -      nameless warehouses and meatpackers and forklifts
            -      white box trucks plastered with graffiti
            -      three-story tenements three-windows wide
            -      the blank brick walls framing empty lots
            -      Coyote Studios and Galapagos across the street
            -      the factory next door that made colored aquarium rocks
            -      the maple tree opposite the six steps to the white door

an apartment from an open house
from a flyer on a light pole: pre-war
Brooklyn building, concrete landing
to a dismal stairway (a common thing
here) to crooked and creaky hardwood
floors to an ‘open’ kitchen and ‘airy’ living
room and the dining room walled off
into a ‘bedroom’ for $450:

            -      two foam pads (from Noel)
            -      two sleeping bags (from Mike)
            -      one small plank (from the street) on two white crates (from Adrienne)
            -      one curtain rod (from the street)
            -      one slab of Formica (from the street) on two black crates (from the street)
            -      one external door (from the street), painted red, with windows

             with the instrumentals on the flip?

about that particular time what became
the hipster takeover of Brooklyn

            the Northside was changing so fast
with every trip down Bedford

everywhere you look picnic tables and smoking
hipsters don’t hold a candle, a place to eat,
a place to drink, a place to live—

            Brooklyn’s answer to the meatpacking district

            -      Yabby: all the fine amenities—

Williamsburg’s answer
to the beer garden

waiting for them to change kegs, watching

the denizens walking by (the grit
was part of the charm)

            as always growing like crazy you probably
won’t recognize the place

when a place arrived unlike any other,
something like Greenwich Village,
youngsters going there, mostly
newcomers for leisurely stretches,
visible through the storefront window,
for coffee, for soup,
the artists who mostly talked
among themselves

            chains, and chains,

[ I crossed the Williamsburg
Bridge one morning wondering
why I was there ]

            and more chains are coming

[ some party in a walkup in the East
Village, synths and mixers and DJs
milling about with red cups and chat,
the L train after midnight back to
a deserted Williamsburg ]

            there are a lot of galleries around here now

the Brooklyn of yesterday
a landscape outside of time (you can see
when it’s a forced effort and you can see
when it’s real (searching for a common
denominator of passion

            you can get the Times now

making all the right mistakes as looping
seemed to be in the air

            no limos, no cars with shiny paint outside,
nestled between meat markets and dockside
hangars, no distinguishing signs or plaques,
just a red, gold, and green door, the colors
of the Ethiopian flag, a landmark


            one of those moments in time that deserved
to be looked back upon and can we piece together
the story of what happened so when you ask ten
different people what they remember about
something that happened twenty years ago

            -      Plan-Eat Thai a decade ago
just a little restaurant
on Bedford

            this place is dead to me what do you expect 30%
of the available dining occupied by an enormous
leaky rowboat seriously the economy sucks
but they had a bulletproof formula

             Oh, Billyburg, there was a point
when you seemed like a scary tough
neighborhood but now it’s obvious
that the graffiti on your walls gets put there
by art students


The Williamsburg Bridge is now a staple
in my commute. There is no frame
to support its shape.

            I don’t really go out in the neighborhood
any more.

An empty N 6th before the rush
at Sweetwater. A schism we didn’t notice
until later.

            This one is the most dramatic. It’s hard to find
the throughline here. Almost every visible thing
has changed including the lamp post.

It was quite a tiny place with just a couple
of tables. It’s about the body and it’s about
the knowledge.

            Many more expensive strollers now
than back then. Given how basically nothing
is the same.

I only have vague ideas about how to ‘fill’
that space. I recall my time there fondly
and I remember some things.

            The neighborhood is not exactly rolling out
the welcome mat.

A contradictory history not everyone
can be a part of. We already know
the next question.

            I have no feelings about this place
either way, a home for underfed hipsters
and their hangers-on.

We have a wise answer we think this
is a good ending.

from: Atlas
Atlas began in 2003 as a walk-based sound art project, but has since evolved into an open-ended long poem.

Glenn Bach