Are you sure this is the place?
In a block of boarded up buildings,
I arrived at the Alphabet City squat
with one bag and my Olympia,
ensuring my welcome with take-out
and 40-ouncers, to live among artists and almosts
and anarchists in the wrecked and rehabbed
tenement. Days seeking work, nights by the light
of the pirated moon, out to the NYU library
where the proletarians had invaded a volume
to foment revolt, back to find somebody’s
grubby naked toddler pawing my keys.
Who was us and them? Easy.
When the cops came at 9 with the notice
and at noon with the wrecking ball
to demolish more than 10 years’ occupation
under a rubble of urban renewal,
we all took to the streets like a smoked-
out infestation, seething, stomping our Docs
over blameless asters, hurling bottles
through new condo windows, rousted
We built a bonfire at the intersection
of 7th and the avenue
bearing the initial of Christ; I say we,
though my part was in being there,
ever my aim to become where I was,
flanked by fury, upending garbage cans,
dragging the corpses of cabinets, three-legged
chairs, moving pallets, and stained
mattresses to feed the pyre, amidst
screams and sirens, in a city that disowned
its wayward sons and daughters.
Bullhorns from both sides, the festival
air of frenetic rebellion, undercover cops
with their giveaway jeans and jackets.
I even saw Spike Lee, taking it all in
through his signature tortoise shell glasses.
The flames rose higher as the mob chanted
louder: we don’t need no water,
let the motherfucker burn!
Then someone from within
threw a handful of M-80s,
bootleg salutes, just as a cop waded
into the fire stamping his boots,
when the Kabam of crazy
conjunction slapped us all hard
with its sonic assault but him
far worse. He clapped his hands
over ears that drooled blood.
It might as well have been me
who’d blown out the man’s eardrums.
I was massed with the act.
I tried to fall back but was held
by the crowd’s constriction, drawn
by horror and injury’s advance.
If I had to break through brotherly handclasps
or tread on toes to shove through
the musculature of the polis, numero uno
as any burgher with a view of the river,
I would. I did. And what does that make me?