Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Autumn, on Olive

Certain streets just work their way behind my eyes-- something I see that rests there, making its way into a poem or story that I never write. Instead, I do drive-bys, like continual longing, the story changing as I change. Occasionally the streets themselves change, and part of me is happy when they find a certain new life, cracked and sick old buildings rising up like a phoenix. For many years, I have known every inch of St. Louis Avenue, driving from the school where I taught, west of Union... slowly winding my way past the homes that then turn more grand, but nonetheless forgotten. On a warm day, on some blocks, people sit on porches, cigarettes being smoked, some laughing, some just watching. I like thinking about what once was, what could be again.

Olive has become this for me, and as I drive down to KDHX TV, moving east to west like the pioneers between Grand and Euclid, it's interesting to see what I notice. I have long been roaming the city streets, taking photos of brightly colored peeling paint, of buildings with their sides ripped out, the inside bleeding down in splintered boards and piles of rubbish. I like what remains when everything else is stripped away, that imagining, and the words that meet the image in my head.

Yesterday, I went out to take photos, but missed the light I was hoping for. Still, just as the streets seemed like a missed opportunity, I turned around and the light was burning out of a building, coming up from inside. I thought of a phrase my friend Sarah used to say, "the fire within". My hands were freezing, and the light changed within a few minutes, but it's nice to know that even when only the shell remains, something can still rise up, changing the way everything looks.

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