Each unit in this building has a clothesline outside
the back porch window.
On the clothesline at the far top left
hangs a white rayon shirt.
On the shirt, a majolica-styled rooster,
embroidered or screened on — hard to say from here.
I feel like I’m on deadline
to come up with a point here
about a cheap shirt and a tacky design
bellied out like a landlocked sail
over the backyard of a tenement
in my scarred and scrappy town,
like I should say “stop the presses!”
and insist that this is a story
that must be told, one of beauty
in the heart of ordinary, in the face
of what gets called “ugly” too often
by those who like their beauty
caged in an archival box, penned into
the richest part of the Cultural District
that was snatched out
from under the noses of those
who gave it culture
in the first place.
We aren’t far from there right now;
we’re miles from there right now
up on the Hill that hasn’t changed much
and won’t unless some folks decide
they like the view from up here,
and pass an ordinance to steal that view
and free it of rayon
and roosters and backyard chickens
and on-street parking and the wrong people.
It feels like I’m on deadline to say all this
and it’s coming fast, if indeed
it hasn’t already passed.
If anything’s going to happen,
anything at all to keep that sail of a shirt
from billowing toward
a good and lovely life
on our own terms, it feels like
we are almost out of time.