"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.

“‘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.”

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     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;
     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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