Take Your Shoes Off Before Stepping Inside

By Cheryl Julia

My heart is yellow-lit, hazy pink and
Lady London’s fickle rain falls sideways
up. Entrance is free but please, no running
and take the time to look at
everything.

Walk down the streets, lined with Parisian
bookcarts selling secondhand
books and discover leftover
sentiments and shards of broken
dreams slipped between the dog-eared
pages for bookmarks.
Stop
before the barmaid with liquid eyes
and reflection skewed too far to the right,
and follow her piercing vacant gaze to Oslo
next-door, where couples dance in different
frequencies; their hands painted
too round to hold on to the other even as they
lean in desperately like second skin.
Feel how the edges of the imported Portuguese
stones that make up the sidewalk have been
sanded down by time into moons matching
the slope of a beloved’s shoulders, once
lovingly inhaled, and listen to the cardboard
front of a desecrated church who sighs with
you for old time’s sake. Sit by the Mekong
river, which flows in the veins of the Milky
Way through the cities, plied by Nara and
swallowed up by Lethean mist. Half-fish,
half-undecided creatures weave their grotesque
bodies through, coming up for air only to
drown themselves again. Be careful not to fall in
for no one remembers where the river leads.
Step right up, step right up.
In a corner, an Australian
aboriginal Elder, wearing a Hawaiian
shirt, tells stories of the Yorta Yorta people,
complete with pyrotechnics and sound effects
booming from an iPod. He beckons to you to
fold your knees on woven rugs as he takes you
by the hand and leads you into invisible cities
etched on the backs of your eyes.

But always, rushing past in napalm-soaked
excitement and recklessness, you see nothing
but leave ruins and landmarks in your wake.
I cry for you to tread carefully but you
do not hear; your heartbeat pounds
louder than your feet.

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