Above the stores medieval grimness reigns:
stones coffin-sized in high gray walls
exuding dampness of tombs, lichened, scarred,
towering inward, threatening Gothic vaults
across the twisting cart-wide lanes,
excluding all but rags of dirty skies;
the upper floors’ sullen faces blank
except for flaking shutters fastened tight
against the horrors of light and air.
But at their base the present rules:
tattooed girls, bellies bared, hastening to salons;
couples puffing Lucky Strikes at flimsy plastic tables;
motorcyclists, heads encased in plastic bulbs,
ratcheting like Uzis down the narrow chasms,
plastering panicked walkers against the walls
covered here and there with gaudy Crumb graffiti,
letters six feet high denouncing Jews or Arabs,
describing sexual quirks, who does them and where.
All this below those 16th-century glowering piles,
the buildings themselves like huge abandoned ships
sinking in a cluttered sea of people, paper and plastic.