Will Cordeiro

Never-never

 

Will Cordeiro

Never-never

this is a white knuckle chapbook

copyright 2017 by Will Cordeiro

design and images by Dale Wisely

white knuckle editors: Howie Good and Dale Wisely

Contents

Junk Town

Rain Town

Crime Town

Beggar Town

Cyber Town

Shadow Town

Sprawl Town

Outsider Town

Generic Town

Drought Town

Prison Town

Rust Town

Author’s Bio

 

Author's Statement

This collection examines some complexities of urban life, especially how a city’s problems may be imbricated with its utopic possibilities. Planning goes awry; desires boomerang; dreams become commodities; and yet—within this uncertain, dynamic interchange between visions and lived realities—many communities prove resiliently adaptable. Likewise, the writing in this collection aims to occupy the heterotopic spaces between lyric and prose, magic and realism, at times blurring which is which.

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Junk Town

The citizens, the survivors, have jerry-rigged treehouses out of ski gondolas, built swaying bridges from gasoline rags, wrought floor-beams from driftwood, knotted fishnets into rooms through towering branches. Stilts, half submersed in a fetid swamp, sink further into the murk each year. Sludge pours in from nearby refineries and dumping grounds—a jellied seep of pesticides, run-off, sewage, who-knows-what spewed up with the tides. Everyone sleeps in hammocks like a colony of bats wrapped up in their own wings. Rickety clapboard, crow’s nests, makeshift balconies—all of it, a trapeze of mousetraps and dentistry. Children slack-line above the steaming ooze, throwing their burger-wrappers and broken cell phones into the gunk below them. Are the poles drifting down into the quagmire or are the heaps of miscellaneous junk piling to new heights? Maybe the detritus is forming a more substantial bedrock; maybe these acres of trash will be their salvation from an existence congealed between a slurry of vapor and marsh. Perhaps a more fertile continent will arise, and these aerial creatures will soon walk on solid ground.

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Rain Town

A gray ceiling of clouds floats over the city, a staid billowing mass that blocks out the sun, casting everything in a soft and permanent gloom. The city is leaden, stone-like. But the buildings are nebulous, vague outlines through the mizzle, almost as if they, too, threatened to dissipate at any moment. Inhabitants huddle in coffee shops, slouch in narrow bars, grumble in basement diners, or wander a mazelike warren of market stalls and odd-shaped niches where peddlers display their pinchbeck wares. In the city center the main library is a fractured pyramid with secret catacombs and hidden doorways. Bright books mildew in its belly. At sunset, people file out of their cramped back-alleys down to the harbor where the last blaze of light raptures through a haze, a vast sweep of color ignites the bay, the architecture melts into crimson, and the whole saturated smog-lit atmosphere floods for a brief instant with a clear-edged, rosy luster.

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Crime Town

Juke joints and beer shacks, flophouses and pool halls are all that’s left of this place. Passages zigzag through empty brick warehouses and boarded-up, condemned buildings. Vacant weed-lots have sprouted through the crumbling blacktop where petty hustlers establish a corner and the more prosperous squat their beat-up vans. Little pinwheels and cheap plastic lawn ornaments—sometimes indistinguishable from the trash that gets caught in the jagged mesh fences—are staked next to the residue of old curbside vigils. Every parcel of the grid is claimed by one gang or another, or the police, who are treated as just one more faction of organized crime. The sidewalks dazzle with vials and bullet casing, shattered glass, dime bags, and blood stains. Gun fire punctuates the empty howl of wind flapping police tape. Busloads of tourists gawk at the squalor, pay for excursions to the coke dens or crime scenes; buy souvenirs from crack houses, figurines of the most infamous mafia bosses. Indeed, the mafia bosses now control the lucrative tourist trade and, for a small fee, will happily act as guides.       

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Beggar Town

Vagrants maunder around the imposing marble statues of justice in front of the courts; they park their shopping carts askew on the steps of the gilded museum complexes; they pile dingy blankets outside the monuments and office buildings. Bureaucrats hurrying home from work at dusk must step over sleeping hordes of displaced persons, hopscotch the hobos, and pay a pittance to get past panhandlers. A poor tax, the bag ladies call it, thrusting out their palms as they snarl at the senators, cabinet members, or other muckety-mucks passing by. The government workers take it all in stride, tossing a requisite coin toward each bum, since they just want to rest after a long day of pushing papers, filibustering bills, smoking with power-brokers. The beggars have a way of cutting deals. Indeed, lobbyists have begun noting their skill in arranging face time with top personnel; lawyers have taken cues from their rhetoric, diplomats from their strong-arm tactics. A few enterprising politicians up for re-election have even started mobilizing their campaigns based on the beggars’ effective ground organization.              

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Cyber Town

Smart young up-and-comers have flocked to jobs at the gleaming campuses and blindingly white office parks designed for companies that create virtual worlds. The tech developers spend their days engineering new portholes in cyberspace, warp zones that transport consumers to refreshed images and pixelated fantasies while keeping them locked to their monitors. Immediately, one zaps across continents; the floorplan of the house next door gets beamed in from outer space. The designers envision a future where all goods and services will whizz along a superhighway of circuits, social capital and real capital blurring in a digital cloud—an omniscient, disembodied brain—that updates faster than the CEO can think. Some of the designers foresee creating an interlinked sensorium that feels more authentic than boring everyday physical surfaces and real estate, which, they predict, will soon become outmoded except as a storage space for the epiphenomena of hardware. At night, the tech developers leave their cubicles for chartered buses with tinted windows; they’re channeled through the city’s gridlock—past sewage plants, tenderloin districts, tent cities, and landfills—to their boxlike studio lofts where they’re finally allowed to succumb to the vivid unreality of dreams.              

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Shadow Town

Skyscrapers soar upward on all sides, each high-rise a sheer, cliff-like face that pitches the thoroughfares below into obscurity. Views from the penthouses, too, if not obstructed by other buildings, are dimmed by surrounding cloudbanks. The inhabitants’ eyes have grown accustomed to flickering artificial lights, a miasma of smog, darkness draped across wizened streets and narrow parks. The subway system and underground passageways have transformed into malls and domiciles since the dimness below ground is no different than the doubtful silhouettes at street level. A shadow city has formed under the original one, a thriving hive, a metropolis of shades. Within this cavernous network, the inhabitants grope through tunnels and mineshafts; skulk past the painful electric bulbs that glow with an otherworldly current. Shuffling dayworkers are pitted against a mob of stiff night-shifters. The one activity that seems to give them all joy is to congregate in muzzy auditoriums where they gaze at the play of a grainy half-light, squinting at the illusory motion of illuminated faces. Figures on the screen give viewers a faint, a shady pleasure of recognition.    

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Sprawl Town

Construction stalled out on the latest ring road. The congestion downtown caused families to move to the exurbs, until these areas too became overcrowded, impoverished, and polluted. One’s two-three hour commute would delay when everyone used the traffic chopter’s updates. Some thought it better to move outside the municipality altogether, to the quiet desert sandscape beyond the crowded strip malls and parking lots, chain stores and shipping depots. Folks set up communities of a few houses, with small gardens and wells and solar panels, home schooling their kids, attempting to live off the grid. But now the urban sprawl has trickled to these outposts, engulfing them in the city’s expanding framework: the city’s hooked them up to the water- and power-lines, the utilities and school boards; has made them comport to zoning codes, postal routes, trash regulations. Meanwhile, whole sectors in the heart of the metropolis have begun to decay, to run riot with cactus and cholla. It’s not unusual to spot tumbleweeds rollicking along disintegrating asphalt, owls nesting in abandoned condos, or coyotes trotting between rundown office towers.           

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Outsider Town

A desolate backwater, the quaint, provincial town lacked the spectacular amenities of the capital. But rents were low, greenspace was plentiful, and things could be purchased on the cheap. As it would happen, out-of-work artists and poor young idealists moved there, mostly because they’d been priced out of the larger cities. Nobody worked, or worked full time. They took jobs as part-time baristas or dog-walkers, au pairs or shop-girls. Everyone expected service to be slow, but that was ok—what was the hurry? Besides, these roustabouts and rejects had set up an alternative economy of bartering. Poets loitered in coffee shops, scribbling manifestoes when inspiration struck; philosophes loafed in public libraries, mumbling and loaded. Sculptors welded castoff scraps found on the same street-corners they decorated. Actors jumped out of pickups and performed impromptu plays. Buskers gathered in drum circles until suddenly a homegrown opera was in progress. In a few seasons, the funky vibe of the town attracted would-be trendsetters, fashionistas, and art-world moguls. It was pegged as the next epicenter of hipness. Developers slapped together million-dollar condos; gourmet groceries, a playhouse, discos sprung up; all the outsiders packed their rucksacks.     

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Generic Town

Developers pictured this barren swath of fens as a prime location to build their mecca. One clean sweep could project their visions. And so grand hotels shot up like rockets, workers were recruited for the tourist racket, and golf courses landscaped greener than cash. Fairy-tale castles, futuristic concourses materialized overnight. Oceans were hauled inland. The entire city boomed. Within this exotic setting of jungles and jingles, fakery and make-believe, however, many of the city’s managers wanted to go home to a refuge from so much prescribed enchantment, a normal place like everywhere else. The developers, happy to oblige, curated a neighborhood that copied the picket fences and two-car garages, half-acre lots and porch swings of a perfect suburb. Yet this gated community ended up being the most unrealistic site in the city: not a domesticated idyll, a sleepy bedroom community of pristine dream estates, but rather a simulacrum of prefab ideals. By contrast, the bulk of the city, spillover districts outside the gates—where the maids, the menial workers lived—which had at first felt eerily interchangeable with any other bland blank slate, now stood out since the inhabitants had added their own little touches and home comforts.  

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Drought Town

Endless sunny days! the postcards promised next to pictures of palm trees and waterparks, bikini babes and mansions with manicured lawns and infinity pools. Giant spouting fountains played outside the hotels which featured swim-up bars or lazy rivers. Sure enough, the city expanded. But as more and more people flooded the megalopolis, each one a drop in the proverbial bucket, the reservoir sank lower and lower. The city had to ration its water use: no more fountains, no pools, no hot-tubs, no golf courses. Then, no sprinklers—grass withered and parched. No free glasses of water with your meals. No baths, quick showers, less washing your cars. No cars, no crops. The temperatures rose; the economy evaporated. Eventually, nothing came from the tap, and the citizens tapped out. Everything shriveled away. Buzzards sailing on thermals. One’s watery eye looked across an endless beachfront, a blue-gold mirage through the air’s translucent undulations.

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Prison Town

Barbed-wire fences and watchtowers loom over the inward-looking little village upstate. The searchlights revolve, swooping down the crooked streets while the Gothic edifice of the maximum-security prison casts a long shadow over asphalted lots. Great gawky crows squawk where gargoyles would be. From the squealing swings in the vandalized park, you can often hear strange noises issuing from the complex, whether from yardbirds or crows who can tell? At the gas station across the road, an attendant glares at customers with a teardrop tattoo. His whole shift, clocking time in a hole. The town feels pinched, what with its vacant, parking-metered main drag; its traffic circles; its subdivisions of trailer parks next to rickety Victorians. Snowfall and falling property rates. Murderers sell their one-way bus-ticket when they get out and just hang around. The town depends on endless appeals. Lifers found guilty on technicalities. Subsidies from the electric chair. Winter is a dark time of flickering Christmas lights. Perpetual rumors of another escapee; of visitors swept up during lockdown. The town’s one notable attraction was a waystation on the Underground Railroad, but nobody’s moving on anymore. Corrections officers get pat-downs as they punch-in to their shifts. 

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Rust Town

The city’s big industry bellied up; jobs were shipped out or outsourced along a conveyor belt. Factories, stripped down and gutted, kept upright by rat turds and rust, have filled with punk kids and squatters. The weather’s frozen and grim, all lake effect and feckless overcast. The local team never wins. People, beaten down and put through the wringer, stuff themselves with sausage and corndogs, beer-battered fry-ups and ground-beef pockets. Polka lilts from the staticky radios, the invisible waves of which some biddies suspect gives you cancer. Good old boys sit on porch stoops, gibber and gab, puffing three packs a day from their toothless faces that discharge fresh smoke. A black grime covers each surface, a fallout of soot, a fine ash on the wind. In their leathery hides, their eyes grow moist, and they remember the olden days: each morning’s break down in the machine rooms, the whole daily grind, sneaking a lunch break, and layoffs when they almost went broke. They tighten their belts, their jellyrolls jigging; they mumble and sigh. Slumped on empty box-crates, they exhale dark, narcotic clouds, assembling memories which sputter off with each line.                      

Will Cordeiro: Never-never

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Will Cordeiro lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he is a faculty member in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University. His most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2016, DIAGRAM, inter|rupture, Nashville Review, [PANK], Whiskey Island, and elsewhere.

prose poetry for the people