When a person says, “I know Knoxville,”
What does he mean by that? I mean,
How much of Knoxville has he measured
With his own body? Once, I heard
A novelist declare, “Read my book
And you will know what Brooklyn was like,”
And I could only think, Her private Brooklyn
Can’t be larger than her medium-sized head,
So even a thousand-page book can’t do justice
To an inch of Brooklyn, which must be measured,
Directly, with your own two feet, and hands, too,
As you crawl or slither, or as you sniff Brooklyn’s
Infinity of sweatily fragrant spots. Thanks
To Fisher-Price, a newborn can now be strapped
To a seat, and forced, his head tilted up, to stare
At a relentless screen, with its bright and anxiety-ridden,
Sped-up world, so that his eyes will cloud over and roll
Away from this mind rape. Drooling, he will utter a series
Of terrified near-words, which his iPad-hooked parents
Will interpret as pleasure. Raised in apptivity, kids
Will eschew walking, talking or eating while looking
At their food, or sex that isn’t on demand. Like now.
Hooked on porn and apps, we will not rebel.
Are you back yet? OK, then, walk with me.
Actually, don’t walk with me, for our paces
And pauses should not converge. Exiting
Girard Station, I notice a white-bearded man,
Leaning on a walker, saying, “Good afternoon,
Can you spare some money for lunch,” while you,
Already down the block, stop at a table,
Set up by an old lady. She’s selling old pots,
Five single rolls of toilet paper and an ashtray.
On a chainlink fence, she has hung up her dead
Husband’s polyester jackets. A portable heater,
Well-rusted, is also for sale. You engage her.
Examining closely the ashtray, you cannot help
But envy its coherent life, its focus, its dignity.