The City Magazine Since 1975

Odes To The Lowcountry - The Pulse

Charleston Streetscape (photo collage, 2013) by Kevin Harrison,

A poem about Charleston by the city’s first poet laureate

Written by Marcus Amaker

Where the sidewalks scream 
on Saturday nights
and the corners rotate 
budding musicians
with skin-tight dreams,

where strings of pearls 
search for salvation
then sweat out their frustrations
on the backs of rooftops,

where the homeless sprout
like weeds through concrete
seeking two dollars, a handshake,
and a little bit of sunshine,

where the humidity 
chokes you out of your breath,
but you still manage to speak to the
spit-shine waiters 
who serve $95 bottles of wine,

where two blocks away,
a $5 pitcher of liquid gold
spills on the canvas of sticky floors,

where love lingers on cobblestone streets
in narrow alleyways, 
but the smell of sex
is the foundation 
for first and last impressions.

We live in Charleston!

Where shadows are surrounded 
by the ocean,
and sea-seeing people gasp for air
from knee-deep bills 
and dirt-cheap thrills,

where those with
no sense of history’s melody
sync with the songs of the city’s slaves,

where the poets scrape stanzas
off of streetlights
and if they scream loud enough 
maybe someone won’t be afraid of the dark.

I live in Charleston!

Where church steeples and cranes 
look over us
and multicolored houses
house live-in servants,
where fast-rising hotels
rise above slow-moving clouds
that cast floods on the corner
of America Street,

where parades of one color
get one day to celebrate
then hide in the shadows 
of gentrification,

where Gullah cuisine
is too expensive
for Gullah people.

The Holy City!

Where the steady beat of jazz
is the beat of our streets
and the dialect of our past
writes future conversations,

where bridges and bike lanes
break bread with politics,
while some of us preach peace
with uneducated tongues.
Where the Angel Oak tree is young
compared to our vanity,
where $16 burgers 
are sold in the middle of a food desert
while every community 
wants a piece of the pie.

Where grandmothers sit on porches,
watching us change
while the problems of our city
remain the same.

We live in Charleston!

Where the ghosts and yoga studios 
call themselves “holy”
and the vintage market calls itself “holy”
and the whiskey drinkers go to church
to feel tender and holy,

where potholes and potheads 
blow smoke through steam-filled summers, 
and the pandemic was brushed away 
like palmetto bugs laughing in the face 
of death.

Where some of us dream
of an underground scene 
to hold onto the spirit of elevation,

where halter tops don’t stop in the winter
for people with disposable incomes 
and opposable thumbs.

The Holy City.

Where the hurricanes are coming,
where the hurricanes are coming,
where the hurricanes are coming.

Another Charleston is being built 
above our heads.

Maybe that one won’t flood?