Here are the directions to get here if you are Superman. You glide over the city at dusk, the incandescent bronze street lamps making love to the hazy polluted blue sky below you. Your sense of direction, as sharp as your jaw, leads you to the heart of downtown in a matter of seconds. From there you fly west, past the polished phallic skyscrapers, and past the unshaven stubble of parking meters stretching around them all. Turning a bit north, and slowing a little, (you don’t know your own speed, do you?) you glide over the rusted ghetto, where there is so much racism, and so little color. Just on the ghetto’s westernmost edge, like a dead limb, you spot it. It’s just a little alley, an old scab on the knee of the city healed and forgotten, but still slightly discernable to you from the mottled complexion of the metropolis.
You notice a place that used to be something, but you’re not sure just what. Was it part of the slums? A bustling foreign town? An industrial district? An apartment and residential area? But for some reason, you don’t really want to know what it was, you just want to look at it. So you alight your highly reflective red heels onto the verily flinching urban gravel. Pitch gray pebbles scamper away from your every step. Now that you have arrived, you tell us what you see.
“I…,” he said.
“Well….,” said Superman, in a voice that you could measure with a ruler, “I don’t see much of anything but empty buildings, abandoned cars, and an almost quaintly decrepit alley.” Here he paused and humphed, and in one superhuman skip, found himself on the roof of the building next to him. “I see lots of weeds, crumbling cement walls, and unkempt graffiti. It’s probably a haven for crime, if I know anything…he-he,” he chuckled.
But beyond the surface picture, in the empty buildings, deprived of windows, doors, and paint, were eyes. These eyes were in deep contemplation, wondering whether or not Superman would notice them, and describe what he saw. The eyes started placing bets on the likelihood of discovery.
“Well…,” said Superman, and just as he was about to kick in his X-ray vision, just before he got his first glimpse through the surprisingly loose packed molecules of the brick buildings, he was possessed by the spirit of the late, great, Edgar Allen Poe. Or at least someone who claimed to be the spirit of Poe. In the Windows, the eyes had stopped all bets.
“Well…,” said Superman/Poe, “There hangs a sort of stifled dread on this place, one that would chill the bones of a Republican, yet hardly tickle a Democrat’s subsidized goosebump. The centerpiece of the area, what might be called the area itself, would have to be the alley, with its halfass and crooked streetlight wrestling for height with the dead leafless maple. When one looks down this alley, one feels as if though he were looking down a tunnel of filthy weeds that led to a dark and seedy pre-civil war New Orleans slave cottage. This alley has its own particular humidity. One cannot imagine day here. Day would be scared of breaking a nail here. The brick pavement (what there is of it), consumed completely by an ongoing battle with the upshot weeds and grass, probably has no idea of the fleeting images it brings to mind; of horse drawn carriages and gang killings, of prostitutes and men in tall hats, of poor children riding rusty Schwinns, of a pitch black pupil surrounded by a golden iris and a cracked blue-white retina.
“The iris is the shed at the end of the alley, and its dark open door is the pupil. One can imagine at any moment an evil lurking figure walking through that door. The figure would lean up against the shed and give you a dirty look. They would either want to fuck you or to rob you.
“In the buildings themselves, those giant battered Dalmatian rectangles, the frame of the alley, with their carpets of sawdust and welcome mats of rat hair, are eyes. These eyes belong to men and women of the street, each one a soul. The junkies, the ‘not quite insane enough’ ex-mental patients, the prostitutes, the abandoned and those abandoning, they are in the buildings.” Finishing his spiel, Superman/Poe hung his head, closed his eyes.
“There’s nothing here,” he said, “except those things forgotten, or those things wishing to be so blest. Dust and crumbling walls do make one feel sublime though,….. It would probably be a great place for poets to seduce proletarians,” and off he flew, leaving the eyes wondering what he meant by that last line, and as to who won the damn bet.
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