The city never sleeps,
but it nods;
drifting in a waking dream state.
Colored by blinking traffic lights,
neon hues lend a sickly pallor
to the dream people who walk the streets.
Night is inhabited by the yellow cab,
their drivers more vampire than man
and I am thankful
that a half-inch thick sheet of Lexan
separates me from this cold,
yellow, cigarette fingered
derelict of society.
As we slink down
long cemetery streets,
devoid of life,
but for the rats that crawl
through the gutters,
seeking mates to swell the city’s population.
Soon, this whole world will belong to them.
The cab stops,
pulling up to the curb
along a shambling and neglected tenement.
I slip ten dollars through
the slot in the bullet-proof glass
and step out into the cool night air.
Even the smell of the cab
was preferable to this place;
the block reeks of lost dreams.
Vice, piss, smoke and failure.
The ironically bearded hipster gentry,
who are buying up the squalid row-houses
a few blocks away,
will never venture here.
This area is dead
and has no care for resurrection.
This part of the city belongs to the ghosts.
The streetlights are lit,
only one out of every two or three
and as the cab pulls away,
it takes with it
the only sign of life.
The headlights disappear around a corner
and for a moment,
it is as if the street is holding its breath,
waiting for me to make a sound.
I fish a cigarette out of the pack in my pocket
and light it.
The rasp of the lighter’s striker
echoes off the buildings
and as I walk south
along the west side of the street,
my footfalls announce my presence
like a marching herald before me.
The sky has begun to weep,
dropping its tears upon the city.
Tears for the lost hope of a generation,
tears for the ghosts,
whose eyes I can feel
watching me from between
the boarded windows
of burned and abandoned homes.
Eyes that follow me
as I pass by empty and decrepit storefronts.
I know they are there,
but they are silent;
long since terrified of being exposed,
of being victimized and traumatized again.
The sounds of an owl hunting
in this desolate, urban sprawl,
gives poignancy to the fact
that these lost souls,
this forsaken heart of the city,
are no accident.
It was the same greed
and lust for power
that killed these people,
that destroyed these dreams;
as has been razing cities
since the dawn of time.
It is a Roman sickness,
to sacrifice the plebes
in hopes of saving Rome
from the barbarians,
but it never stops the horde.
The horde always sacks Rome
and these streets
will house as many forsaken spirits
as that ancient city.
Living amongst the stench of death
waiting to return to the dust.
The rain is falling harder now,
putting out my cigarette.
I look for a bin to toss it out,
then pitch it into the gutter.
This place is as much a garbage dump
as it is a graveyard.
In front of an old two story building,
I stop and duck inside the doorway,
out of the rain.
The building is unmarked,
neither apartment, nor business;
a silent mausoleum
in the midst of so much death.
The lock on the door though,
and the door is reinforced steel,
acid etched to give it the illusion
of time’s tarnish
and man’s neglect.
No one looks for me here.
I am neither cheap prostitute,
nor synthetic drug,
yet, I belong here.
Like the scum in the gutters
and the smell of piss in the air,
I belong here,
more than in the glass towers of midtown.
My key turns the lock
and the door swings open silently
and I step inside.
The door locks behind me,
Lights on sensors,
detect my presence in the hall
and as I take off my wet coat
and head towards the heart
of my mausoleum sanctuary,
the LED lights glow dimly.
The hallway opens into a huge space,
and my place of meditation.
Here is where I have come
to solve the riddle of the city.
This is where I have prepared,
my surgical instruments for work.
I am going to wake the dead,
so they can tell their story
and those who have left
so many disturbed spirits in their wake,
will know their pain.
Setting my damp coat on a chair,
I step to my workstation
and the blue screens come to life.
No one knows me,
but soon, they will never forget me,
for I too, have been dead a while.