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 rivers—Cherokee, 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).