Tom Laichas

Navarre Ct & Alhambra Ct

Navarre Ct and Alhambra Ct are alleys. Near their juncture, a utility pole. My city names every utility pole, stamping each name in an aluminum tag, nailing the name to the pole. This is the name of the pole at Navarre and Alhambra:



XP 138—162

My city also names its manhole covers, its sewer lines, its gas meters, and its cell towers.

Mine is an encoded machine-readable city. Mine is an ordered city, self-aware and conscientious. My city catalogues streets, offramps and taxable acreage. Mine is the numerate city, legible to all with eyes to see.

My city’s cameras know where I walk.

But my city’s attention is elsewhere, on a burst water main, a downed power line, a jackknifed big rig.

I stand at XP 138—162, visible but unseen.

Santa Clara Av

On this block five years back, Oscar D—— takes a bullet, bleeds out and dies. He has no known gang affiliations. The County Coroner takes Oscar D——’s body for further assessment. Winter rains wash the splatter into the culverts.

Santa Clara knows nothing about it. Santa Clara is an object, a thing made of sand, gravel, and tar. It doesn’t know the quake of its own traffic or the weight of its own dead. You won’t hear Santa Clara telling its neighbor at least they’ve got closure.

Why do we think that our streets will remember?

Maybe, somewhere on earth, there’s a city more fully alive to human feeling.

Not ours. Not yet.

Tom Laichas’s recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spillway, Prime 53, Masque & Spectacle, Ambit, and elsewhere. He is author of the recently released collection Empire of Eden (High Window Press) and of the chapbook Sixty-Three Photos at the End of a War (3.1 Venice Press, forthcoming). “Navarre Court & Alhambra Ct” and “Santa Clara Av” are from 300 Streets of Venice California, a work-in-progress.