Fungal Civilization

I have only ever lived in fortresses and strongholds, nesting and laying the course in a complex nexus of towers and mausoleums, places fortified by metallurgy and the weft of singular, discordant bodies, the native element dismembered by the fixed rotation of place names and gps locations. Upon my return to New York I was startled by the divergent materiality of things I had forgotten in my absence; the resonant croak of iron junctions and hinges, the billowing tufts of pale exhausts, the fading hues of the centuries-old facades, the cacophony of dissonant tongues deluged in the fanfare of this congested babel of smoke and stone. I had forgotten about the muted quality of winter’s complexion in New England cities, full of green rivers, steel rigs, flagstone and brick. The tactile members of dormant trees rise skeletal in coiled silhouettes against the weighty evening’s atmosphere, dusty and blushing in the waning light like pale desiccated flowers sentinel in window boxes, carbonized petals scattered across the pavement in gutters and oily lagoons.

I cannot iterate for you the corresponding attributes of Los Angeles, but in these aforementioned elements is described the diametric psychology of the other city. I could never find the words to gather together the poetics of that place, always beholden to the requisite to contrive some heroic narrative to live up to the vast margins of sky. All of my poems were cauterized and disfigured under the relentless and omnipotent sun as it crossed that voluminous dome of blue and white light. There is a poetic language for Los Angeles that only coalesces in the night when wistfulness is rendered in shady figurations across the dry ground, shadows conjured by the winking candelabra in the firmament. There is an enduring rift in your sensitivity to the physical universe when first you see the shape of the world absolved of darkness by the silver light of faraway suns. But a psalm is too precious for the constraints of the spaces that contain you there. It is the betrayal of your mortality that desists language, your lonesome coil just one of many fleeting intermissions in the theatre of the natural world.

America is a spectrum, bisected by an axis with New York and Los Angeles representing x and y, respectively. The succession of frontiers heralded the dissemination of a facsimile for the same paradigm as the prototypical first, canonized in the mounting of New York, the Empire City. It’s empirical quality was conveyed along a westward crusade, attending a sequence of conquered territories prescribing the conditions of the spectrum until the crusade was curtailed by an indomitable impasse of ocean.. Across the continent, the cardinal city of the new west encountered its polar equivalent in Los Angeles, the crowning edge of America.

At this final extremity of the west’s encroachment, there is a man named Pliny in the sprawling pocket of high desert they call San Bernardino. Inundated with confetti, napalm and thick valley haze he is clenching the broken contents of his mouth in his simpering leathery visage and cavorting feverishly with a yellow banner that reads “everything must go.” The dusty street corners and boulevards are void of pedestrians and the automobiles don’t pay him any mind. In the procession of history, the vast matrix of culs-de-sacs and strip malls remain fixed to the slow degradation of decolonization. The edifices continue to atrophy under the relentless solar fire–lights burn out, retired water systems lend themselves to yellowing esplanades. The abandoned neighborhoods and shopping centers begin to return to their desert parentage; gray and green gives way to rust and sand, the fading monuments and domiciles rising from the dust like boxy jagged butes. Beyond that, to the south and east (a negligible distance) the endless sky meets ancient towers and red earth, where faraway suns sing the praises of its perfect emptiness—an emptiness that was once cultivated in preservation by those who lived there long before the land produced the fungal shapes of stone towers and smokestacks, of iron rigs and roaches.