Beyond the Village

One day she discovered the city,
frenzy of steel and glass, tar and flesh.
Trolleys, subways and Muni buses
rumbled and hissed up and down
the hills beside elegant houses
with vases of flowers in deep-set sills,
and on the wide avenues, the shops!
Laundry, dry cleaning, grocers, rare coins,
palm readers, jewelers, a small hotel,
booksellers, copiers, car rentals.
Manikins dressed outlandishly met
her gaze and reached out manicured hands;
coffee houses spread their chairs out
onto the sidewalk where dogs, too, lounged;
all sizes and shape of demure mutt
rested on paws and wriggled eyebrows;
banks stood as grand as barns, their bright
ATMs blinking, calling to passersby.
Little there was primary or pure,
everything a palimpsest with half-
lives and secret histories buried
in the back rooms or up the stairs,
and in certain sections concocted
as in a methamphetamine brew,
giddily intermingled and stirred;
a man hole here or there capped underworlds
of gases rising, swirling, mixing.
And yet to her amazement each thing
had a marked price that must be paid;
except for the bottles and jars nestled
in green trash cans at every corner,
not a glass of water or piss could be
had without digging into her pockets.
And all this life crammed into one huge
Emporium. Not a single graveyard.

Zara Raab