City of


City of ghosts. City of dead cars. City of nah to the songs
that say blah, blah, blah. Is this what I get
when my father’s dead. Is this what I get when I’m lonely

in my veins. I don’t feel like watching TV
or listening to the stereo set. My heart downtown
has nowhere to go except where the dead reside

suddenly the choreography of bodies sleeping
in tents by the lake, some angelenos, some illegal
what is like to shake with an ashtray’s click of cigarettes.

Now tell me, doesn’t the desert eat unless daylight
is winding down like a siren. Lawmakers smell of cash
because they eat cash, says my father, while I grow old

& nocturnal. Inside the eloquent darkness the blue comes out
in the dirt. I don’t know what the worms do inside the earth.
I don’t know why I’m more tired than a dog revised

in a graveyard, tired of american gothic gentrified
disgusted by plastic, by the gutting of carcasses
where others have gone off to praise

the four black, shiny SUVs parked in the driveway
I’ve deserted to the streets, deserted to odes & elegies.
It’s strange to think beyond that window another exile

is probably thinking the same as me. You can find
almost anything. City of cocktails. City of cops. City of
carnations crushed & taco trucks.

William Archila is the winner of the 2023 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry for his collection S is For. He is the author of The Art of Exile and The Gravedigger’s Archeology.
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