Sunday, December 3, 2006

Ode to a Civic Structure – With a Phoenician Turn

As the extensive expansion and revamping of Phoenix Civic Plaza grinds toward completion, it seems fitting to post here a poem written by Midtown resident Amy Taylor, submitted to The Midtown Messenger for publication in July of 2004. Amy said in a cover note that the poem was written before the existing Civic Plaza was completed in 1972, when she worked as a nighttime answering service operator near Central and Thomas. In that stint, she said, a Civic Center guard who would report in by phone from the site offered her a private tour at midnight one night. Amy was 47 at the time, and married, and her relationship with the guard--and their rendezvous for the tour--were strictly platonic, she said in her note. Amy added that she provided the poem to the Maricopa Recorder’s Office after writing it in 1972.

Editor's additional note: Attempts to call Amy at the number she gave in 2004 and one found online reached "number not in service" messages. If anyone who knew Amy knows her current whereabouts and health condition, please contact us. In any case, we hope her poem's publication here gives it exposure that Amy would find gratifying.

Phoenix Civic Plaza

Manifestation - Revelation

I asked “Is that [the] new civic plaza
Where you’re working as guard?”
He said “Why don’t you come see it,
I can show you, ’tisn’t hard.
First you find Fifth and Van Buren,
The turn south through the stop gate,
Then stand and wait,
Blow your horn, and I will listen
For the sound, I’ll be around.”

Velvet dark the Phoenix sky,
Stars twinkling Andromeda,
Noise of traffic moving near,
Sounds of city,
Sounds of fear,
Midnight, waiting for the guard, Locket,
He will show me round the civic plaza.
I have found, the best way to see the sights,
Is ask the people working nights.

Airplanes gliding overhead,
Electricians in their beds,
The building looms a solid mass,
Wire gates for the trucks to pass,
Chain link fencing circles round,
Construction trailers on the ground.
All visitors must check in at
The Del Webb building, think of that.

Police cruisers on the prowl,
Three hippies pass, their night to howl,
Sit and wait,
At the gate,
Lights are flashing, getting late,
Listen to the radio,
Solid rock, full of life,
People’s problems,
Songs of strife,
Noisy love songs, loud and clear,
Are playing while I’m sitting here.

There’s a car along the street,
Here comes Locket looking neat,
Cowboy hat, pants as tight as skin,
Victory sign, it must be him,
He looks as cute as cute can be,
Smiling as he looks at me.

Overhead doors in a row,
Vast empty rooms, light fixtures glow,
Massive chambers, dark and quiet,
Box offices await the crowd,
Planned for people by the thousand,
Our footsteps on the bare floor pound
And echo as we cross the space,
Transformers hum,
Architects’ schemes,
To make a background for his dreams.

In visions I can see the place,
Filled with all the human race.
Conventions here from every state,
The entrance at the going rate,
For trailer shows, boat, car and coin,
All people here in Phoenix join
The kids crowding through the gates,
To many various shows, a spate.

Stairways leading from the ground,
General offices abound,
The ghostly figures pass,
In dreams behind the blackened glass.

Walkway taken over Third Street,
Third Street dipping underneath,
Square on square of patterned concrete,
Squares of velvet for our feet,
Round reservoir, which is in truth
Mythological fountain of youth.

Main entrance to the concert hall,
Solid glass three-eighths inch thick
Rising up to fifty feet.
Silicate of tinted glass
Defying the bright sun to pass.
Concrete shell to catch the sound,
Smooth, elliptical and round.

In a little room the phone is.
Locket made a call to Burns,
To record the fact that he was working.
Then he turns.
Amy do you see the drawings
That they follow as they work.
See the rolls and rolls of blueprints,
Book of plans is inches thick.
See the rolls and rolls of dreams
Transformed into reality,
Then rolled up and tucked away.
Dry leaves curled on an autumn day,
Victims of autumnal blast,
When their usefulness is past.

Moving through the empty spaces,
See the vast and darkened places,
Hydraulic orchestra pit lift,
Musicians offered up, a gift.
Power lifted elevator for unloading scenery,
Exit signs are glowing red,
I can see way overhead.
Light is on the second floor
Shining on an open door,
Dressing rooms are all around,
But the keys cannot be found.
Walking on the concrete bare,
Carpeting will soon be there.
Hear applause, the actors bow,
See the visions then and now.
When all assembled and complete,
Two thousand and more it will seat.
Dark - a flashlight - on the stage,
Scaffolding’s intricate maze
Reaching heavenward so high,
Seeming that they touch the sky.

In one corner of the stage,
To reach the gridiron overhead,
A Jacob’s ladder, round and round,
Black spiral staircase is found,
From ground to gridiron, eighty five feet,
Metal, black, and very neat,
Like smoke rising to the sky,
Curling to the heavens high.
Or a black dust devil dancing,
Swirling in the desert bare
While the stormclouds are advancing,
Ominous the desert air.

Manila ropes connect to cables,
Cables connect to the pipes,
Pipes to hang the scenery,
Single purchase counterweights,
Added weights to compensate,
Ropes for curtains by the score
Actually sixty five or more.

Caverns underneath the buildings
Waiting for a thousand cars,
Supporting pillars, full of grace
Like atlas hold the world in place.
Think of the hole they dug before
The concrete mixers start to pour.

From Monroe south to Washington,
That’s two blocks wide, and three blocks long
A vision, yes, a lovely dream
Is rising in this Phoenix scene.

Beneath the overpass we walked
On empty Third Street, and we talked
Of Phoenix, how we felt about her,
The lack of night life in the center,
How Tucson has much more to offer,
Las Vegas is more to our choice
Where day and night blend into one,
No clocks to tell the time of day,
To drift along bohemian way,
And never have to say,
“That’s closed, we must go home.”

It would be nice, if, in this scheme
They'd plan a nightlife for the scene
So when conventioners arrive
The nightclubs would grow and thrive
When people came they'd have no fear
Of what they're going to here.

We found the door, the metal stair,
And climbed to catwalk waiting there,
I looked below, beyond the lights
And was amazed to find my knees
Which usually would shake with fright,
And with sheer terror I would freeze,
They didn't shake when looking down.

We climbed aloft, until we reached the roof,
Then walked beyond and viewed the fairy city,
How fabulous and truly pretty,
The sky a shade of gentian blue,
Even of the darkest hue,
The lights were twinkling all around,
As far as we could see,
And we thought what a pity,
The smog obscured mountains beyond,
There were no edges to the pond,
The water lay as though below,
With stars reflected in the glow,
The sky above, the air was chill,
The view gave me such a thrill.

We slowly walked down to the ground,
To powdery dust that's all around,
And walked and talked of life and such,
Of many things, yet not of much.

I said goodbye, he locked the gate,
The very strangest thing is fate,
That I should meet a guard like him,
And on a momentary whim,
Be privileged alone to view
The Civic Plaza - all brand new.