Kansas City I Like You

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You have lots of leaves
wet gutters
springy grass where I sit, write, eat pita and hummus
read in the shade
Kansas City black men in black clothing
walking with a limp, looking hardened,
people holding out cups for money
rattling as you walk by,
protests downtown that leave me smiling
waving signs and jumping up and down.
Kansas City water fountains chocolate stores condom wrappers
rich shoppers stepping over potholes, holding their daughter's hand, holiday boxes
flashing windows in the Plaza
Betsy Johnson Victoria Secret, other places I have never been in.
I just live in the Crossroads,
long streets lined with swirling skirts punk hair and fire-dancers
vegan restaurant art galleries Coffee Girls
rickety hot dog stands, gang signs, English majors with facial hair milling about
and talking about cool-kid authors

I drive down the highway crossing from Kansas
to Missouri and sigh,
it's much better over the state line
the mansions stop appearing, mostly,
there are more hipsters huddled in trios on street corners,
more girls smoking in the bathroom,
more angry people spitting poetry into the mic
and I sit legs crossed and drink coffee and write,
then get ushered on stage,
closing my eyes and grip and tell my stories,
more caution getting in and out of your car,
always parking where the lights are,
towering libraries cement parking garages laughing people
walking quickly with their bags

oh Kansas City
I like you
you have little concerts
graffiti on buildings
billboards of sex, anti-sex, abortion clinics
Lawrence close by to go to on the bus on a rainy day I pay fare,
thick phone books cafes wide roads,
putrid Chinese market selling live rabbits and chickens,
Eden Alley so expensive I go to spend all my money,
book stores book burnings book bins books I sit curled up in
the Literary Festival every year I read and smile at the crowd,
because I like being here and seeing people's faces
I can hear them saying,
“I can't believe that girl is saying that” about the war, about her girlfriend, about meat,
she's only 14 or something
but I am—rainbow bracelet with chai tea scars up and down arms little girl, loud words

Kansas City
without you
I would have grown up not knowing
the Roller Derby,
cool Chinese food tattoo parlors Gay Pride,
farmer's market, poetry slams, used book stores—where I bought Carol Queen books—
and I would be a whole 'nother girl.

Kansas City
I'm broke and I want to run all over you to
write messages of love with chalk
for people to find in the morning.





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