Major Jackson

from Urban Renewal


Penn's GREEN COUNTRIE TOWNE uncurled a shadow in the 19TH century
that descended over gridiron streets like a black shroud
and darkened parlors with the predatory fog of prosperity
as familiar as the ornate plot in a Dickens' novel.
The city breathed an incurable lung (TB in that time), trolleys
clanged the day's despair. Workers in cotton mills and foundries
shook heads in disbelief, the unfolding theme caked on ashen faces.
Above mantels in gilded frames: tasseled carriages, silk bonnets,
linen parasols echoing the silence of Victorian evil,
the shade soldered to new empires as steam engines hissed,
and brought this century's opening chapter to a creeping halt.
Step on a platform in our time, the city's a Parthenon,
a ruin that makes great literature of ghostly houses
whose hulking skin is the enduring chill of the western wind.
Stare back down cobbled alleys that coil with clopping horses,
wrought-iron railings, to grand boulevards that make a fiction
of suffering; then stroll these blocks of housing-projects,
to man-high weeds snagging the barren pages of our vacant lots.


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