Arcosanti & Mess
by Bob Brooks
[ poetry - june 10 ]
An hour north of Phoenix, in a desert
Of rocks, beside a mesa where the wind
Can howl unchecked for weeks, where the white sun
Has fired the earth to powder, and where nature
Grows nothing but mesquite, the architect
Paolo Soleri has placed his city.
Arcosanti. Not so much a city
As its rough core, so far - a patch of desert
Redirected by an architect
Who, though he can't make buildings out of wind,
Can still make use (and beauty) of what nature
Puts in his way: wind, mesa, desert, sun;
Resources inexhaustible. The sun
Gives power freely; take it. Site the city
Against the mesa's southern flank. From nature
Accept materials - sand from the desert,
Gravel, deep-sprung water. From the wind
Take motion. And now let the architect -
Who's conjurer as much as architect -
Shape concrete and ceramic structures sun-
Ward, glass-roofed cubes and apses; in the wind
Fling banners, hang bronze bells. This magic city
Is Soleri's. Upright on the desert,
It seems to mock, but rather mimics, nature,
He says. What draws together prospers. Nature
Abhors disconnectedness. An architect
Must organize, within a waste of desert,
A circle of sustaining life. The sun
Itself suffices to itself; the city
Likewise... But is he whistling in the wind?
Go see. Go shop: ceramics, banners, wind-
Bells are for sale there. Drawings. Pamphlets. Nature
Does not bear money; tourists do. The city
Of five thousand sketched by the architect
Holds sixty residents. Meanwhile, the sun
Has watched four decades vanish in the desert...
So has the desert won? And has the wind
Prevailed? And is the sun triumphant? "Nature
Doesn't care," the architect whispers to his city.
My brother explained it
to his girlfriend this way:
"Mess is sexy," he said,
"because sex is messy."
"Same old same old,"
she told him, and walked out,
pulling the door to behind her
with that soft click that
always so excited him.