Decline and Fall

A see-saw balance obtains
Between city and country
Growth and garden
Capitalism and socialism
At which Eastern US cities paused
Late last century
Between wilderness and theme park
Boston, New York, Philadelphia
Atlanta, Baltimore
All vital and fertile
Full of threat and promise

Sidewalk ends here
Proceed at your own risk

Fourteenth floor apartment recast as used bookstore
Five overflowing case filled rooms
Overlooking water tanks and bridges
Men below asleep among rustbrown and green bottle shards
On benches and sidewalks in sunlight
80 premieres in just one week
In storefronts, old carriage houses, brownstones, parks, promenades
Ramshackle Filipino, French, Bolivian, Nigerian, & Malaysian restaurants all on the same block
Pinball cum videogame display case playgrounds
Commercial and container and passenger ships in their slips
Dwarfing a few last tramp steamers
A tug trundling past, a barge piled high with cabbages in tow
Museum, department store, train station and open air chamber concerts
Placid pigeons stationed on lintels, gutters
Or, wings wide, circling in the air
Winebars and chocolate truffle boutiques
Around a hasty corner from dark redlight, drugden alleys
Jade and art nouveau necklaces and bracelets in reinforced antique store windows
Hot dog stands and pushcart roasted chestnuts
Cranes and beams and hardhats and blank sky, airplane passing
Boarded up windows, graffitoed walls, discolored brick
Ferries and streetcars and subways and buses
And lightrails into the suburbs
Custom shops for dresses and suits and shoes
Gas stations with cars up on lifts
Rooftop gardens with Gaudi and Degas and Brancusi sculptures
Makeshift bus depots and train stations
Cantilevered under, above or between commercial behemoths
Pretty much all, except perhaps the drunks and pigeons, going now or gone

Alan Cohen