We trace the dust lines left behind from the appliances, fumble for the brick foundations between the steel beams, peer at serrated stairlines where the wall paints stopped. Reincarnated. Tenement apartments become dance spaces without barres or mirrors, in the dank basement of a bank on Market Street, in anonymous green-carpeted rooms on Mott Street.
Crips, Bloods, and butterflies. A sunflower somehow planted in the alley. Its broken neck. Maybe memory is all the home you get. And rage, where you first learn how fragile the axis upon which everything tilts. But to say you’ve come to terms with a city that’s never loved you might be overstating things a bit. All you know is there was once a walk-up where now sits a lot, vacant, and rats in deep grass hide themselves from the day. That one apartment fire set back in ’76—one the streets called arson to collect a claim— could not do, ultimately, what the city itself did, left to its own dank devices, some sixteen years later. Rebellions, said some. Riots, said the rest. In any case, flames; and the home you knew, ash. It’s not an actual memory, but you remember it still: a rust- bottomed Datsun handed down, then stolen. Stripped, recovered, and built back from bolts. Driving away in May. 1992. What’s left of that life quivers in the rearview—the world on fire, and half your head with it.