Nishi Ramen on San Antonio Street

I. An explosion of expansion has taken over these once dead streets.
Only they never died
Rather were pushed back
beaten with poverty and destitution
Beaten with regulation
70 hour work weeks
Standing in line for sustenance
I know those conversations well
I’ve stood in those lines.

There is a petition going around
To save their homes.
I didn’t sign it because I don’t always
See as clearly as this.

My brother understands
The pain of people
Better than I,
Objectivity has made me sterile.

II. I arrived about a half hour early
and parked, incorrectly
(I would later find out)
and decided to walk around Durango street
trying to understand a bit of the history
that would soon be lost.
Objectivity has made me sterile
And I sought to find within the buildings
A hint of the audacity
of a people
daring to hope.
(The hope of course being not to lose their home through no action of their own.)

Red stone buildings made to be dirty
Through their perseverance
Since 1881 reads the El Paso Times.
Red stone that runs from the ground to the sky
boils over to the next building
And the one after that.
(I didn’t need to leave my own city
to find brick roads.)

Union Plaza and all the night clubs
Empty on an early Friday night.
The buildings form a wide alley
Benches and street lights along the sides.
Here I Love You and I begin to think
Of how long I have been walking
My attention to the dull pulls of hunger
And the thought of you still not arriving.

I have to bring myself back, I’ve
Been trying to understand precisely
Where in this history I belong
Observer or agitator, worker or worked
Around the corner another bar
In front a man sits alone
His bag hanging open over the seat
Muttering to himself or me
To no one at all.
I don’t bring myself to walk past him
There is a bridge just beyond
Old dreams
Soot and the immeasurable silence of an underpass.

Above us a stadium
I haven’t been inside
it is not a history I want to inhabit.
A path alongside the bridge
colored with baseball lingo and ancestral figures.
I sit on the steps of the stadium.
In front of me
Two nations and a firmament strewn across the ground.
There is heaven in those homes
Gods inside every head
Keeping this city aflame.

I am between a mountain and a valley
On the banks of the Rio Grande
On the street below people shuffle
Carrying grocery bags
I can hear the train from union depot,
Machinations of the night.

Now I am observer
A thousand universes
And I am not more than the night between the stars.

III. As if I had been asking for a sign
or had hung my tongue out dry
looking to lap up new dew or old puddles
the city spoke to me,
a fountain of inspiration.

The fountain says
“we are truest in our repose”
Like water, it qualifies.
Only, the fountain was empty and I
An impostor.

I struggle to collect my tongue
Too big for my mouth
Too many tongues to count
I’ve forgotten what water looks like.
I turn to leave and step in dog shit
Luckily my soles have no depth
And cling to nothing
But the memory.

I am thirstier than ever now
And the city has misplaced my puddles.
The alley ways have brick roads.
In autumn or spring the leaves
never match the red of brick
or the green of the bay window
This is the street
Where the bulldozer tore down
A building
Prematurely
Shot its load too early
collapsed bricks
a chunk of history
tiny universes
scattered forever.
I rush past it all
I have so much to write.

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