Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Walk Across the Campus at Night.

A Walk Across the Campus at Night
by james bezerra

At night the campus is an other city.
At night, I’ve found, it’s empty
but for the muses who I hunt there.
Its empty parking lots sprawl like
an asphalt Serengeti. Its empty well-lit
garages with their concrete angles
suggest complex mathematical
models about weight and shadow.
Its silent broad buildings lit by
yellow aura low pressure sodium lamps
like modern castles quiet and abandoned
before some advancing horde which
always follows the moon. Its quads sit empty,
ashamed town squares after a massacre or
an oppressed protest.

The library in the center of campus
glows brightest of all. Its square heavy stone
facade the color of a rocky desert. It almost
hovers like an ancient Egyptian starship,
it’s wide high steps lit up like a landing strip.
Oh, and here’s my sad gaunt English building.
It has a clock on its tower to remind the wayward
poets of the invincibility of time, and that class
is inexorably approaching as is their future
of professional obscurity. Poets so often
lose their power when they leave here,
the world of rent and bills, of stocks and bonds,
of Stafford loans come due and office jobs
retires every hope they’d learned here
how to hope and how to name.

Beyond that: recall what Jimmy Stirling said
of campuses as architectural zoos: the
Film and TV building like half a boat with a hat.
The Math Department rendered in the most boring
sort of boring red brick and even its boring courtyards
are open up to the sky, which somehow is made
to looks boring 73 and a half percent of the time.
The Performing Arts building, which sells tickets
that students can’t afford, looks like a spaceport
made of light and glass and recycled oxygen,
or maybe like one of those boxes
that radio stations put you in, filled with tornados
of money which you can never seem to grab ahold of.
The manicured grounds around it are lit like
a garden party with a moat. Nearby, and unlit at night,
the concentric rings of the earthquake memorial
are surrounded by broken benches made of rubble.
The older building have all the joy of Soviet
apartment blocks, but the botanical garden is
luxuriously overgrown with plants whose
latin names adorn metal plaques stained by rain,
and it is positively infested with feral cats,
who always adore me: because
we always recognize our own.
I like sometimes to sit in the old orange grove
at the edge of campus along a street that
wasn’t here in 1929 when the first trees went in,
maybe as a windbreak against the Depression
blowing in from the East like so much dust.
What once was one thousand five hundred
acres of Mandarin oranges is now one acre
of Mandarin oranges. 400 trees still
in pretty rows: that’s a survival rate of less
than seven percent: A genocide of oranges
has taken place on this hallowed ground.
That wasn’t quite enough for someone though,
so they’ve put in a water feature: a rock fountain
and little creek that’s filled with clipped-wing ducks
which you can feed for a couple quarters in the dispenser,
or for free if you bring bread, like me.
It is pleasant enough here though, the trees and water burble
deaden the city sounds, or maybe, make them sound
like wind. The orange scent always reminds me
of persimmons and persimmons always remind me
of a woman in Ohio who loved me for a week or two
and who always ate persimmons after we made love,
while I smoked a cigarette out her window, and
who when she put me on a train, shoved three
persimmons in my palm and said:
For the trip.

Walking back across the other city
on paths that seem to make no sense but
which probably look nice to birds, and
think of DC or Paris and of boulevards
which move at angles. Crossing the dark think
how nice the moonlight looks across these buildings
and thank I.M. Pei, who never worked here
but who thought a lot about light.
Cross Cleary Court which would look quite
at home in Brasilia: so pretty, so clean,
and so vacant. Juniper Hall with square windows
which look like castle loops for cannons and
the little Noski auditorium at the end of the court,
always so well lit and with its roof jutting
at such a shocking angle as to suggest
a Roman temple has just crash landed.
I cross back across that asphalt Serengeti
and I know that I’m leaving the city empty.
Empty now because I am gone and I am -
I think - its last known citizen. It joins
the ranks of Troy and Machu Picchu,
Chernobyl and Varosha in Famagusta,
Atlantis and the base at Orford Ness.
I am gone and the city is empty without me.


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