by Michael R. Burch
It's a fine town, a fine town,
though its alleys recede into shadow;
it's a very fine town for those who are searching
for an El Dorado.
Because the lighting is poor and the streets are bare
and the welfare line is long,
there must be something of value somewhere
to keep us hanging on
to our El Dorado.
Though the children are skinny, their parents are fat
from years of gorging on bleached white bread,
yet neither will leave
because all believe
in the vague things that are said
of El Dorado.
The young men with the outlandish hairstyles
who saunter in and out of the turnstiles
with a song on their lips and an aimless shuffle,
scuffing their shoes, avoiding the bustle,
certainly feel no need to join the crowd
of those who work to earn their bread;
they must know that the rainbow's end
conceals a *** of gold
near El Dorado.
And the painted “actress” who roams the streets,
smiling at every man she meets,
must smile because, after years of running,
no man can match her in cruelty or cunning.
She must see the satire of “defeats”
and “triumphs” on the ambivalent streets
of El Dorado.
Yes, it's a fine town, a very fine town
for those who can leave when they tire
of chasing after rainbows and dreams
and living on nothing but fire.
But for those of us who cling to our dreams
and cannot let them go,
like the sad-eyed ladies who wander the streets
and the junkies high on snow,
the dream has become a reality
—the reality of hope
that grew too strong
not to linger on—
and so this is our home.
We chew the apple, spit it out,
then eat it "just once more."
For this is the big, big apple,
though it is rotten to the core,
and we are its worm
in the night when we squirm
in our El Dorado.
This is an early poem of mine. I believe I wrote the first version during my “Romantic phase” around age 16 or perhaps a bit later. It was definitely written in my teens because it appears in a poetry contest folder that I put together and submitted during my sophomore year in college. Keywords/Tags: El Dorado, big apple, worms, New York City, junkies, streetwalkers, hookers, prostitutes, actors, actresses, hustlers, conmen