A day starts,
with sirens before dawn.
Citizens can tell what’s what:
the ambulance variation
someone’s sick, wounded, or dead;
the fire truck clang blare rumble
trouble bigger than personal trauma;
the police oscillation
any or all of the above,
means someone’s getting a little visit
from the Blue.
I know enough of crown tags and colored beads
to know the Latin Kings
hold some neighborhoods
close. Elsewhere there are crews
who run their own blocks;
I don’t know who they claim to honor,
mostly it seems like
there are a lot of guns out there
with no direction.
“Worcester” is the formal name.
“Wormtown” is what ex-punks of a certain age call it.
I’ve heard it called “Wartown” once or twice,
but it’s never caught on.
Whenever I light
another far-too-expensive cigarette
I want to call it
full of cold wooden boys
wishing they were real men.
There’s a stone circle downtown
that commemorates World War I.
It’s got this highbacked granite bench
running around the circumference.
If you sit on one end and whisper,
a person sitting on the other end of it
can hear you as if you weren’t
fifty feet away.
Like the rest of the city,
I don’t know
exactly how it works
but it does, and very few people
even know about it.
The city’s voice: dissonance
and fairy dust
hissing down, filling potholes.
rattling with imaginary grandeur,
and the stretching sound a nose makes
when it’s growing out of all proportion
as it speaks with equal passion
of its faults
and its glories.
Oh, more about the Blue:
shaves and crew cuts
who ask “are they white or black?”
about the people they’ll be seeing
before coming out
to the frantic domestic violence call.
We have lovely
turn of the century lamps
on our street.
Half work and half don’t
on any given night.
We don’t complain:
at least there’s some light
to run by.
shares the belly of the Great Fish
with Jonah and my cousin Tony,
all of them writing feverishly
in the dark. Outside
there’s a monster storm. No one
mentions it, they’re pining so hard
that the thought that this might be
as good as it ever gets,
or that the journey to a better place might be
doesn’t come up.
Over in the far corner
by the duodenum,
another false boy’s doing
unspeakable things to a turtle
who looks either thrilled or terrified
but because he’s not real,
we can’t ask him. Everyone is upset
that he’s so brazen. No one
Worcester. Say them soft,
it’s almost like praying:
dearest Fairy Godmother,
want to be real.