St. James’s Place

Martyrdom of St.James (Scenes from the Life of St. James), Andrea Mantegna

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.
– Romans 5:3

This city on the sea, reincarnated like a borrowed life: Babylon
redeemed by way of junk bonds, the world’s eighth wonder—
according to He-Who-Didn’t-Compensate-His-Contractors, busy
building anything but wealth, born off Broadway, blue-blooded
and blind to any colors on the wrong side of the strip: his palace,
courtesy of the Community Chest, all faux gold & laundered bills.

Here hotels were built and then abandoned, blithely named after
barons whose fortunes came and went—like trains moving money
and tourists from the boardwalk to more secure settlements
the salted waves won’t reach: their utilities of inherited wealth
conceiving wholly new empires that extended from the ocean
to outer space, fresh time capsules incorruptible by commerce.

Casinos thrive as micro-monopolies: the rigged arenas of dreams
where gladiators die nightly, leaving emptied wallets in sad piles,
like so many bandages on a battlefield, these personal lotteries lost
one slow suicide at a time; the city finally a reflection of the system
it was built to sell, where fortunes are amassed faster than paychecks,
dynasties erected like pyramids, and the stock market is scientific fact.

This impossible promise ruined, patrolled now by cops & cab drivers;
pushers and pimps role-playing tokens, the forsaken streets creeping
with orphaned dogs amidst smoked out bars and boarded up buildings:
dinosaurs unaware the comet was coming, like some divine justice—
finally—as if Christ returned to the money taker’s temple, flipping over
every blackjack table and consigning sweaty pit bosses to eternal fire.

Churches and funerals homes remain in business, starving with vacancies
for the converted or deceased as the least of our brothers, now ghosts,
cover the waterfront while mothers and sisters bear the burdens and babies,
keeping stillborn bloodlines from extinction, and silence herself gives last call
as the Eye in the Sky smiles down on James—patron saint of all who suffer—
reconciled to his place and begging forgiveness for those that trespass.1

  1. The properties in the board game Monopoly are named after streets in Atlantic City, N.J., famous in the early 20th Century for its beach and boardwalk. The tourist town eventually declined, and gambling was legalized in 1976, followed by high rises and casinos, several owned by real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who declared A.C. the eighth wonder of the world.