Great Southwest


Lights are on in the Great Southwest, the energy


          of work trapped in offices as desire

points outward. It's late

                                      and nighttime's businessmen crackle downtown's blocks:

           cops, the homeless, undergraduates pouring


from the academy walls for buy-one get-ones and drums recycled

from long forgotten songs about heartbreak

and human connection.

                                       A ball game is erupting


from the opened roof of the stadium a block away,

          the weather is pleasing enough, twenty thousand brains clinging


to victory's weak hinge. Houston

is a city and all of the ropes pull outward, it's a good

thing. A city is a good thing,

                                             a city is a dot on a map

           in a sea of color and veins, words that can be meaningless,


Corpus Christi, Palestine, Happy, Cut And Shoot.


What to take and when to take it, the slash, the splintered rack.


          To love a city, to love the state. The state I want to fail most is Texas, the state

          that grows my food, that pays

my bills. The children are starving, good, a choice somebody

                        made, a great somebody in a great house,


Austin in its nest.


I haven't made any choice but to love the state for all

           the wrong reasons, all the right devils. Austin, a great

           collection of buildings and people, department stores and taco joints

           made famous by television shows. Concerts every

night, great dancing to music made by resequencing spoken word samples

of the relatives of murder victims

                                                     at various trials, drum loops beneath.


Stars are gazing through the veil

                                                     of pollution and light that Houston generates

like breath. I have met women in Houston, and I have

           met men. I have slept uneasily


on one side of the bed, unsure if my heat should invade my partner. To grab,

          to hold. When to kiss and when to hold it.



everybody knows each other, everybody knows great

sin, the inner workings of political systems, endless columns


           without walls, roofs. Texas, a colorful moment

clicking comfortably against the other states. I have

a car and I have invaded many parts


                                                                 of Texas. Dallas,

           a clean city, a shopping mall, a sports franchise; San

Antonio a museum; Galveston a popular tomb. Fort

           Worth, Nacogdoches, Texarkana, Cairo.


                                                               Lights are on still,

in all the buildings in all of the Texas downtowns,

it's a comfort, somebody is working, some


thing needs to get done, family on the periphery.


What to pick or when to push it, the devils

           we've accepted by assent or silence. My neighbor has died

but I always rushed inside to avoid helping her up

the stairs with her groceries.

                                               The homeless scenery. The children starving.


           I turn down a road and I'm astonished by the cityscape stuck

flat on the horizon, elaborate monoliths of steel and glass. People


are working in the Great Southwest, but maybe it's just the night

cleaning crew, maybe everybody else rushed home on time

to meet up for dinner, for drinks, to be involved


           in a moment of human connection. Lights against


the night sky, constellations we could draw on the skyline

                                   different each night. A banking skyscraper has shaped

           their remaining lights to form a five pointed star across

                          their facade, the Astros' symbol.


                                                                                       Lights are still on

           but maybe nobody's working,

the switch forgotten by the last person out in a rush


with keys and bag, or they're on timers, going on

          and off hourly. Speed it up,


windows between us on the ground and the lights

in the buildings, windows designed to protect us from only the smallest dangers.


Places I've Been

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