Post Road Magazine #28

Our Town

Wesley Rothman

for Sabato Rodia and his Watts Towers

In our town, our small city, sunken precinct, shots
do not ring. In our phantom kingdom, shots are not

speedy lead bells. Every chapel of the Southland
chimes at noon on Sunday. Bell towers jangle

one another from Gardena and Bellflower,
Compton and South Gate, jolting the haze—

this cathedral city's vaulted ceiling—raising
prayers like skyscrapers, one beam at a time.

In our town, faith is the heat that hovers
over asphalt, thin and scorching. And here,

in our town, the toll of shootouts volleyed
at dusk, dust shaken from roof shingles

and the tiers of these towers, shaken
by sirens, volleyed by warriors, this toll

is the blueprint of society. Cops and bangers.
Bang! Bang! Bang! bumps blood of the curb

and flesh of the street. Every block is Holy.
A hammer falls. Shoutouts and fingers fly,

inscribe a prayer in the air before hands dive
deep into pockets, into the Holy water

of a brother's open ribcage, a baptismal font
of terror. The rhythms drive by. Noon, night,

then never again, we wake to build ourselves
a Holy house, we bind and build the towers.



Sinnerman

Wesley Rothman

I can gas a mile in the time
it takes Nina to run down a sinner.

Down to the dark tides
of deep notes, she calls up

cacophony to stun
her suspect, the totaled conscience

wrapped around a tree, that tree
branching veins of memory. The future

stolen by the sinner, plucked
like a gleaming ruby. Running from the siren

of her voice, back pocket bulging with red,
with easy riches. The sinner murders choices

in the street, and I'm praying at the fat base
of the memory-holding oak. I'm rapt

by prayer, its desperate whisper.
No whisper or faith will fell the tree

so I run. If I can run the rock right up
and over the hill I can keep on running,

running down another possible me. Chasing
the me that knows a thing or three

about redemption, about breaking less
of the world. But the rock runs me back

to this busted up belief: I come
from where I come from

not anywhere else. How can that mean anything
for redemption? I'm bent around a tree

that only the jaws of death can wrench
away from me. And I run to the river

pockets full of rocks.
In the current I ask the rocks

to keep me still. Still the whispers, still
the roaring waters, the piano crashing,

and sirens in the cathedrals
of my ears. The power of doubt

and the glory of sound run me down
as I run, run, and run. They prop up a dark kingdom

where I'm the king and the jester, the preacher
and the rundown sinner.

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