In the Heart of the Heart of the Empire

After William H. Gass

A Place

An island next to the richest island in the world, connected by cabled bridges and aerated tunnels. Rain brings the smell of the sea that surrounds it, men and women clean it daily, and it is filthy. Buildings of low brick and stone, some towers of glass, and the sky goes silk moiré behind these lineations, the lit shifting blur blocked by places where people live and work and eat and sleep and fuck and run. Clouds leap through loops of razor ribbon and you can count the stars on any given night: twelve, seventeen, three, eight. Pigeons, rats, and roaches outnumber people; more languages are spoken here than any place in the world. A cluster of discrete villages clinging to a homogenous metropolis, a tangle of immigrants across the river from suits and banks and postcards and skyscrapers that sometimes crumble, it is not named a stolen native name like its neighbor. It is layered: we all live on top of each other, and under. And I’m here, in recovery from love. 

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The Kenyon Review XXXIV:1, Winter 2012