Apparition Poems: Ambient Ghettos of North Philly Pt. 2

One reason Apparition Poems got its title is that, between the spatial dimensions of different sectors of Philadelphia and its ornate architectural elegance, one gets the sense of ghosts, specters, and apparitions here, hanging in the air in a way that some find intoxicating, some do not. As I said about Temple University and the Eris Temple, those who find an interest in attraction/repulsion circuits (things, ocular vistas or otherwise, which attract and repel at the same time) will have much to ponder as they walk Philadelphia streets. Attraction/repulsion also leads, circuitously, to thoughts of salvation and damnation; and who the saved and who the damned are is another pertinent Neo-Romantic subtext. If Philly has an interesting relationship (also) to philosophy, it is because the relationship of our architectural constructs to the sky, the heavens, and to a widely disparate scene on the ground, lends a sense of transcendentalism to the city, and to attempts to forge higher worlds, aesthetic and otherwise, from it. This is all leading to this Apparition Poem:

There are gusty showers
in Philadelphia, showers
that beat up empty lots,

down in sooty Kensington,
you could almost believe
what the books say about

being-in-the-world, I mean
being in a damned world, it
really does seem that day

on greasy days in Philadelphia.

The circular nature of the poem around Philadelphia-as-topos gives it an air of being self-enclosed, self-completed, a whole, round circuit. The circle involves time, temporality, which has as one of its more graceful manifestations the temporal circle, where (in whatever context) you finish where you started. One of the grand subtexts of Philadelphia— architecture versus time/the temporal and space, is mirrored here, as the scaffolding of the poem creates a square around the circle of the poem’s temporal conceit. The “gusty showers” and “greasy days” of North Philadelphia depend, if we posit some aesthetic satisfaction in them, on a broadening of viewpoints towards a recognition that surfaces belie interiors, and what looks damned might actually be saved, and vice versa. This is Baudelairian territory— salvation and damnation are not up the alley of the English Romantics that much— and the Philadelphian Prowler may well be more, in his/her Noir orientation, simpatico with the Symbolists then with those consonant with the replenishing powers of trees, birds, and flowers. To be forced into a kind of Purgatory, against century XX, by architecture— such is the fate (through Philly Free School and otherwise) of Philadelphia in 2014.