"final cities"

Joshua Wilkerson

Joshua Wilkerson holds an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago and is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at CUNY Brooklyn College. He edits poetry and visual art for the Brooklyn Review. His recent work can be found or is forthcoming from Otoliths, Gone Lawn, Dream Pop, and the Five Star Review.

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"'final cities' takes as its starting point the Marine City developed by the Japanese Metabolist architect Kiyonori Kikutake. The first models date from 1958, but it was sketched in many different versions over Kikutake's lifetime. While Kikutake imagined the Floating City as a utopian use of space and natural environment, a logically designed meta-city which could be added to and connected ad infinitum, I reimagine these floating structures as last resorts returned to after coastal cities are flooded by rising sea levels."

Wilkerson - source - Kiyonori-Kikutake-M

 

     in quarantine’s doldrums,

     odd days when the sun winks

     at itself, and gets stuck like that,

     a floating, vague urbanity— 

     days I get away with, popping seltzer, 

     envied ancestor of all blanched

     timelines, time-outs,

     for instance, a bitter lilypad network

     built to nurse a million pasts

     in each hexagonal cell—

     it’s like I’m a city remembering 

     itself remembering the coast, 

     where history once glinted weakly

     with the vacant smile of an heiress—

     an embankment of evidence

     against its central abyss—

     the way each floating platform toggles

     into the foreground the massive arc 

     of the ocean’s indifference.

     it’s like someone struggling

     to recall seagulls.

     it’s a feeling of concrete years, 

     of piers asleep round submarine towers,

     rogue whiff of jasmine

     skimming somewhere off the spray 

     or where will my little black cat hide

     out there in the rain?

     a sense of a reprisal: rain

     once more sputtering negative vistas,

     the stripes of salt petals

     clinging to identical towers, 

     mewling at night, familiar grumble: 

     this’ll be the big one

     there’s the low-sodium type 

     again, tying down empty benches,

     the wet poster clinging to concrete:

     lost past, if not found please

     drift forever through endless whitecaps.

     there’s the tides repeating 

     their garbled lesson: “renewal; 

     metabolism—

     shutter the windows again, the wind

     mewls sickly in the move-nets, again,

     is the unknown cat out there,

     can its eyes still find me 

     through the gathering storm, an axis 

     of blame?

     when the sun went dark 

     we salvaged what we could 

     from the flooded cities. 

     we hover now at the surface 

     high above, sticky notes 

     citing forgotten subplots.

     what becomes of habits

     once so winning?

     with no more ‘putting away,’

     ‘pulling through,’ ‘pushing

     on,’ all of that

     went under. 

     can losing be relearned? 

     a disaster, 

     to take root, wants repetition.

     it is polished by the waves,

     as every night I watch 

     a ditch my cat once played in

     clutching its soiled enchantment 

     like a veil, filling with water &

     overflowing into the streets.

     when the rains pass

     we have months of trees,

     and new winds in their leaves.

     in the light our aloneness softens.

     the static dilates each cell

     of afternoon, and we watch

     reptiles dancing,

     ignoring sunbolts, hastening

     toward their victories.

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