City of Angels

These streets are marked with sadness
The alleyways and boulevards,
This city of Angels and Devils
Where opulence and poverty rub shoulders
And sex is plied on the streets
By numbered girls in short pleated skirts

Thick eyeliner accentuates
Their dulled eyes
And bright pink lipstick
Belies their hardened smiles
In a city that promised much
But instead, took everything

A few blocks away,
Stand houses of religion:
A chapel and a temple juxtaposed
With a grimace and a wink
Against the neon-lit backdrop
Of girlie bars

At the foot of gilded offices and shiny malls
Too near to gated residences of marble and glass,
Sit cardboard homes with corrugated tin roofs,
And in them the unheard masses that
Congregate in a church of hunger

In the meantime, hawkers and vendors
Ply their wares, braving foreigners’ stares
For this months rent
Or their child’s medicine
All of this hinges
On the lackadaisical decisions
Of vacationers and sightseers:
“Do I want this T-Shirt? Or maybe
A hand-woven throw for my couch?”

From another city far away
I see this city in my mind’s eye
And I am haunted by
Its’ beckoning cries, the swell
Of noise, and smells, humidity, heat
And bustle, and the relentless call
To be more than a tourist
In a land aching
For so much more than all
That we take from it

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