I can't focus. I need music. Nothing
holds my attention. So I launch
a search. Auschwitz: a photograph
of shoes, and one of shorn hair. Sounds like Brahms
on the classical station. Meanwhile,
a bomb explodes

in Moscow, and it's snowing peace
onto burnt out cars. Arbeit macht frei

stands above the gate
and a chill runs along the railway track
past a grove of trees. I'm invisible, a coyote
on the run. Hunting season

makes me nervous. Turn to twelve tone,
some Schoenberg until the news begins.
Ultimatum: North Korea
talking tough. There's a storm
in the Midwest and nothing
but unresolved metaphors

on my desk. I crave distractions. Find some pictures
to escape into. Romania, to remind me
of the simple life with haycarts and sheep,
when people had the time to stop and talk.
When fashions were centuries old. When life
was a pilgrimage
and a walk in the meadow. I tell myself

to stop and listen
for what goes on around me. But
I still can't concentrate. Get up
and walk around the living room.
Turn on the light

to help me find a closing line:
And my black thoughts sit like starlings
along miles of power line.


The dream projectionist
never tires. Beneath a sky
threatening music above a city
whose streets are identical
lovers meet on every corner
with their faces wrapped in linen

preparing to embrace.
The final landscape on Earth
is a leaf
upon whose veins
exotic birds are perched
like decoration on a fan

with which a lady seeks to dispel
insufferable heat.
The projectionist works
until the celluloid
burns, until the bedroom
is filled with smoke. Drought,

loneliness, and all the other stars
play out their roles
on screen like shadows
running tiptoe
on the tide

night after night, depositing
whatever the sea does not need
on the shore at dawn
when the big waves roar.


Our city has no personality, we say; we're nothing
more than a million people caught
in a desert trap. We talk like this
whenever Phoenix is the topic, as if our having moved
from somewhere else absolves us
of responsibility. We talk as if culture
were impossible between strangers
and the streets defined us with their straight-line
practicality and breathless distances.
Part resort, part convention centre, we're air
conditioned and built
for passing through. On Hohokam foundations
we play golf and build hotels
where Spanish is the language used to change the sheets.
WeĠre young, we say, still growing. And the desert
retreats more every year, except
on billboard photographs that show
the view from houses not yet built. We talk
as prophets, convinced that all it takes to be
a real city is to stand our ground
and wait for the inevitable. Meanwhile,
we haven't recognised
our personality; it soaks into the concrete
with the heat, it is the sky's reflection
in the glass on high rise avenues, it has the scent
of citrus blossoms in March and mesquite
in the summer monsoon. It is a drink so cold
it stings, a trickle of sweat along the spine,
a wash of early sunlight in the palm fronds.
Our personality is the tension
between expensive cars
and people waiting for the bus, between the taste
of fast food and that of chili peppers,
between the talk show host's shrill voice
and quiet moments on a mountain park trail
spent reflecting that our history is underground
and the future is a mirage. Undeterred, we bind
ourselves together with a belt of freeways
and hope for rain.

        İ David Chorlton 2004