Geoffrey Brock

Tallahassee These Days

i.m. Kamal Abou Youssef, a.k.a. King Love


            There was no history, there were only the storms.

                        —Donald Justice, “The Miami of Other Days”


It is still a metropolis of trees, a mere

town of people. Longleafs and live oaks

raise their awnings over summer and winter,

over the sprawl of strip malls and the dim

suburban constellations. But the awnings

thin, and the canopy roads, spoking outward

toward forgotten towns, survive only

by ordinance, souvenirs of country lanes

and coaches, of the days before I-10 cleaved

the town like a river, before the flood of cars…


It’s a May afternoon. I’m waiting for the light

at Apalachee Parkway and Magnolia.

Around me, fatted bureaucrats and frat boys

keeping their cool with their windows raised;

two young black men on one corner, sweating

in three-piece suits, proffering The Final Call;

and on the corner across from them, King Love,

our local patron saint, he of the white beard,

the gold cardboard crown, and the smell

he of the many placards, admonishing us

now to love each other instead of Jesus,

now to help him find a home and a nice wife.

And half a mile down the Parkway, shifting

between the new capitol and the old,

the Spanish flag, the Union Jack, Old Glory,

and the Stars and Bars: a primer of sorts.


Then south of town, the sandy washboard roads

that go on and on, through pinewoods, scrub,

palmetto plains; the sinkholes tapping the veins

of buried riversCherokee, Big Dismal, Blue Sink:

swimming holes for drunken good ole boys

and those of us enough like them to pass;

repositories of stolen pickups and ancient cans

of Dixie beer, of arrowheads and camel teeth

and the tibias of sloths, of the shells and sands

of an absent ocean. Everything here is history.



“Tallahassee These Days” first appeared in Southeast Review, fall 2000 (vol. 20, no. 1).