San Francisco is Gone
  Alex Skorochid


The feeling came first in London
—that this hunk of imposter Earth
Was a dead planet really or worse still
An amusement park recreation
Made for tourist scum and their chubby kids
So they could feel that they’ve ‘been there’
And have the dumb pictures to prove it—
Walking among the places with names
Heard in songs or read in books
Soho King’s Road Westway
I found nothing of resemblance
Nothing of the messy ferment of life
—To borrow a line from Mr. London
That old fuck who didn’t even have the decency
To be from London, but San Francisco instead—
And knowing all the while that Joe Strummer
Was dead and buried and that these places,
These fucking places, would remain standing
Testaments to chain-store fashion
Predatory capitalism, their dead-eye windows
Boarded up with advertisements
Oh gods, gods!
Let it burn this time for good.


And out in Monterey I felt it too
As we sped through and couldn’t even
Bring ourselves to stop because
Cannery Row was better left a thought in mind
Then to participate in the picking of bones
That are now almost entirely a fleshless, pearly white
Oh Steinbeck, didn’t you know?
Bone-crack teeth come in handy these days
And the more tourist dollars coming in
The less the dentist bills are looking like
So they’re sucking on cities’ pasts now,
Slurping on a place where things once happened
To make sure not a damn thing will ever happen again.


And Manhattan, well, I don’t think
They’d let me ‘cross the bridge again.


And San Francisco, ah there we are,
Mr. London told us you were gone already
But things have happened since that time
I am sure of it, and maybe
It was the immigrants that kept it happening
Staunched the tourist flood with their dark bodies
But rents have priced us out now
And only trust-fund cases, software developers,
Mini-music moguls are left to bear witness to
Motherfuckers snapping pictures of old Beat-town alleys
And forgetting that

Where something happened
Never meant a good Goddamn next to
What it was that happened there.


And so whether it’s unfashionable Toronto
Amongst the city strangling condos
Or some café in South Korea

We’ll know that where we are is bigger,
More important, better than these places
Surveilled by their blank-eyed monuments
To a dead or rapidly retreating past.

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