Alta Vision

by Tal Clapp

Urban pastoral in the station square
under a canopy of light-strung trees
coming on with dusk - a weird starlight
against the just purpling upper sky.
Across the street and down the horizon
as far as the buildings allow
more lights burn and flicker and run;
in the rich galaxy of the city night,
neon bar signs glare fixedly.

Smokers are herded around ashtrays
by shaggy old cops put out to pasture here
and pigeons dart among the feet
pecking and flicking the ragged butts.
Those who don’t smoke wait, and look up,
leant on railings around the square,
to a giant screen flashing first scenes of peace -
a meadow, a flower, a butterfly - accompanied
by gentle flute and folk guitar, then
an ad for real estate: a child’s voice says,
“miki house” and the name fills the screen
in bright orange before the week’s top 10
floods out distorted from unseen speakers.
Earthquake safety. A restaurant.
Mountainscape. Miki house.

Those who don’t smoke, and don’t look up,
look down, with faces made ghostly
by the light cast up and flickering
of their own small screens, as the flickering
polychrome light from above plays on
their heads a programmed aurora,
a dubious benediction in light.