Surviving February

February 28, 2012 |  by  |  Found  |  , ,

Rindelaub Row half demolished for 10 Rittenhouse, 2006 | Photo: Bradley Maule, PhillySkyline.com

Editor’s Note: The shortest month, February is also the cruelest, and often the hardest to endure. Even this one, with all the sunny days and daffodils blooming (and magnolias, crocus, cherry trees…), perhaps especially this one, with all the sunny days and daffodils blooming, spring taunting. In February, I turn to the poet Stephen Berg, founder of the American Poetry Review. Wry and miserable, alert and choking, Berg often feeds on the decay and visceral being of Philadelphia. Here’s a passage from a prose poem (Berg a master of the form), “Burning,” from the 1998 book Shaving, published by Four Way Books. Here is the old 18th Street in Center City, the 18th Street of the 1980s and 1990s; all but Sue’s is gone.

This is all there is, it is burning, birth death like a palace of leaves, burning, saw dogshit clog my cleated sole scraped it off on a curb then on grass by a tree, then used a twig, the hundred different quartz watches, buttons, displays, black and silver, in the electronics shop across from Pour Vous, Sue’s Fruits and Vegetables with its packed stalls juice machine customers, Rindelaub’s restaurant now nothing but a cheap bakery, even the faeces, even Christ, even the cracked fucked-up pavement under my feet, the gift of its drab heart (pray? should I pray?) burning–these must have told me what I had always known in my prideful terrors, but I can’t say, only God who needs no God can, or insects communicating their next move, or the pulse of a leaf–every building, shopper, car and garbage can erupting with the praise and grace of existence, a kind of delirious grief in gratitude for the possibility of existence, who yearning for who yearning for who, it was weird–instantly I resisted, windowshopped, studied books skirts shoes, watched faces, did my interminable shit-scared cretin philosophy, calculated the feel of bills in my pocket if I had enough for lunch, any appointments?–but it was happening: picture yourself caused by light witnessed by light stated by the throat of light redeemed by light.


View Larger Map

About the author

Nathaniel Popkin is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including the forthcoming Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (Temple Press) and a novel, Lion and Leopard (The Head and the Hand Press). He is the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Reaching For The Heavens At Cret's Tower Of Chimes

Reaching For The Heavens At Cret’s Tower Of Chimes

May 26, 2017  |  Vantage

Turn a corner in Philadelphia and you will eventually run into a building or bridge designed by Paul Phillipe Cret. Celebrated for his broad, arched infrastructure and Neoclassical landmarks, not much is discussed of his cemetery architecture. Contributor Brian Horne takes a trip out to Montgomery County where a 172-foot tower designed by Cret sends a memorial park reaching towards the sky > more

Rediscovering The Dead Fleet Of The Delaware River

Rediscovering The Dead Fleet Of The Delaware River

May 23, 2017  |  Vantage

The ships of the "Dead Fleet" at Pier 78 rise at low tide from their watery graves in the Delaware River. It's a curious sight, recalling a time when the riverbanks thrummed with a booming maritime industry. Philadelphia shipping historian Robert McNulty takes us on a salty voyage to uncover the backstory of South Philadelphia's ghost ship graveyard > more

Building A Better Future With Bright Common

Building A Better Future With Bright Common

May 19, 2017  |  Vantage

Hidden City editor Michael Bixler catches up with sustainable architect Jeremy Avellino to talk climate change, deep energy retrofits, and the power of passive house building. > more

Restoration Project Gives New Life To Ben Franklin's Grave

Restoration Project Gives New Life To Ben Franklin’s Grave

May 17, 2017  |  News

Benjamin Franklin's tombstone gets some desperately needed TLC. Tyler Horst has the story > more

Summoning The Spirit Of A Victorian Masterpiece

Summoning The Spirit Of A Victorian Masterpiece

May 15, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

Gone, but not forgotten. The Shadow channels the ghost of the Henry J. Morton Guild House, a beautiful Victorian hall designed by famed Philadelphia architects Wilson Brothers & Company > more

The Making (And Marketing) Of The Modern Gayborhood

The Making (And Marketing) Of The Modern Gayborhood

May 12, 2017  |  Vantage

Contributor Kelson Northeimer takes a look at the history of the Gayborhood and its cultural transformation through lifestyle marketing and gentrification > more