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.”
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
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
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
can losing be relearned?
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
ignoring sunbolts, hastening
toward their victories.