Poetry by Susan Landers
I wish I had a complete record
On the corner of Wayne once a man and Wyneva once Louden was a lot once a building. A grassy lot in place of a brick building with brick porches on a brick road for firm footing. The building was named for a street named for no one. A name given without regard to the old world. The Wyneva.
Before the building was a lot it was a vacant a place of commerce. A place to buy drugs or to squat. Before it was a squat it was section 8 housing or a hotel and before it was a hotel it was an apartment building where couples like my parents could have wedding receptions. And none of this is recorded on the internet.
Why records matter. Why ruins matter. Why a record of a ruin matters. Because it scared me for so long it can’t just be gone.
a beginning of a struggling to resist a beginning of an ending
To search. Sometimes what we come to know is what is lost after others don’t care to know it. This lot once a squat is coming to mean something about what records get recorded.
I sit down to write them for you
Someone who lives across the street from the lot once a squat doesn’t want to talk to me about it. She’s happy it’s gone she’s safer it’s gone. She wants to talk to me about the playground across the street from the clearing.
The hollow once a quarry. Maybe the city’s first playground. A natural theatre. Happy Hollow. Allison wants a garden not guns in the hollow once a quarry but everything’s a struggle.
Maybe she heard the shots that killed Vincent Parsons when police chased him through the hollow on Good Friday. Such force such fire. Someone said they weren’t supposed to open fire in a playground. Someone said we cleared the area of children first.
keeping out of danger was all there was of living
The lot once a squat now a clearing leaves few traces in records. Allison doesn’t want to talk to me about it but she tells me where I can find a picture of it.
to make real this thing
get the picture to exist
A file folder on the fifth floor of City Hall contains traces of a record.
The record contains an argument for protection arguing that the repeated cutting up of a building into smaller units shows a history of a neighborhood’s inability to create housing for people who don’t own homes.
And a clipping that says after years of no heat and open fires the building was declared unfit for habitation but its frail and elderly tenants—including the building owner’s mother—refused to leave.
And a refusal that says the building lacks distinction. It says the Wyneva is no Alden Park. Alden Park. The pink building like a castle like a cake off the Wissahickon where my parents had their wedding reception.
Traces of a record on a table.
to make real this thing
Hedges and vestibules. A moldy pissy brick smell.
The vague fear that comes from all the unprotected surface of her.
The lot once a squat is coming to mean something about what records are kept in the body.
Like the body of a builder. The son of a bricklayer. A builder of brick buildings who built the Wyneva in 1911. A builder who went missing in 1915. He went missing in a gray suit and a straw hat. The police conducted the most painstaking search for the smooth-shaven builder who suffered from overwork who suffered from a nervous condition. They found his body in a creek not too far from another brick building. Another brick building that he built.
Susan Landers is the author of 248 mgs, a panic picnic (O Books), Covers (O Books), 15: A Poetic Engagement with the Chicago Manual of Style (Least Weasel), and What I Was Tweeting While You Were On Facebook (forthcoming, Perfect Lovers Press). Her latest project, Franklinstein, is a mash-up of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Gertrude Stein’s Making of Americans, and the history of one Philadelphia neighborhood. She blogs about this project at susanlanders.tumblr.com.