Charleston

by Joshua Beane

Charleston,
I hear the co-mingled din
of your voice
In your interstate trucks passing,
your lazy slow-swimming barges,
heavy with coal,
following the river,
the money,
and the people,
out of town.

Charleston,
Your sidewalks are sticky-slick
with the blood and gore
of my failures
lost causes,
lost battles,
lost friends.

Charleston,
I see their faces
in every cloud.
I hear their voices
echoing on every corner
in town.

Their cars fill every street;
ten deep around me
at every stop light.

Charleston,
the brambled thicket
of your 49 thousand souls
has snared better than me.

Charleston,
You flopping, twitching
roadkill horror
of ever-grasping
tangled tentacle-rape legs.

Charleston,
Even your earnest-smiling,
arts-supporting,
NPR-listening,
wine-drinking,
Capital-Street-roaming,
bearded, hipster-trash,
is leaving you –
bi-annually,
on vacations,
in Portland,
South America
or NYC.

Charleston,
I do love you.
But I will never be true to you.
I might go out for coffee
one night
and never return.

Not because I don’t love you,
but because I hate you
more than love you.

Charleston,
Your West Side,
your would-be-Brooklyn,
is a mess of abandonment
and rebirth.

Charleston,
Your East End blocks,
a quarter-mile long,
settled by languorous,
dilettante pillheads,
and people who practice
dog walking
like a religion.

Charleston,
Your cotton candy sunsets,
over the Kanawha –
the dirty, polluted,
chemical stained
Kanawha.
I have always imagined
that it tasted like cough syrup.

Charleston,
Your horde of lawyers,
picking over the corpse of this valley,
over every litagatable surface,
like a biblical -plague.

Charleston,
Your ubiquitous
all-touching
all-knowing
inescapable web –
with a quarter million strands
stretching across the valley.

Charleston,
This exhausting web,
and these blood-sucking
gossip-spiders who spin it.

Sometimes Charleston,
Sometimes I want to leave
and never even think
about you again.

Charleston,
Your Greek Chorus
of judgement.
It’s faceless dozens
knowing every move made,
every word said,
every mouth kissed,
every curse uttered.

And I might leave you one day;
I hope I do.

But I could never forget
this moribund waste of a city.
Never forget the sunsets,
coffee on Capitol Street
after dark.

Never forget those first kisses:
by the river –
at daybreak
after talking all night –
secreted away in a car,
desperate and sudden –
or against the cold stone wall
of a closed store,
on a quiet, dark street.

This place,
that everyone
who has ever loved me
has called home.