Art of the Deal

By Magdalena Ball



While I grew up in lower Manhattan’s
housing project
the pre-dawn cusp of gentrification
there was a shadow rising

a skyscraper in my head
sixty-nine stories growing upward
with the realisation
that childhood was ending prematurely.

When the tower was built
on the site of Bonwit Teller’s
iconic department store
limestone reliefs and Art Deco grillwork
promised to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
inconvenience of rare quality
jackhammered to dust
a binary zero sum choice.

According to a faked spokesman
later revealed to be Trump himself
the merit of these stones was not great
enough to save them
It was a simple cost benefit analysis
art versus market signals.

We all knew about this kind of growth
it’s chronic, like alcoholism
progresses in predicable ways.


That tower became the physical embodiment
neatly parcelled in glass and twisted steel
of everything my mother marched against
bundling me into a minibus for Washington
handmade placards and gas masks

but still it grew, hyperbolic and glittery.
We knew about the leaky pipes
the rats, the evictions, the freezing
cold New Years, the broken
light globes, the endless bullying

winking beneath gilt layers of fabrication
tax abatements
because why support those in need
with one hand while groping them
with the other.

Moral ethos gave way to self-regard
the easy word, status, celebrity
the world is a brutal and vicious place
screw, get even, crush, win

slogans, sensation and sex sells
selling is everything
welcome to the eighties.


Casinos don’t release
their customers
until every penny is gone.

Time pretends to move forward.

We’re in the orbital age now
it won’t be long before
humans enter deep space
looking for a sign
some alien race
to save us from ourselves.

Meanwhile Earth
geology seething, prepares
while the tower continues to grow
a monolith of mythic retribution
from creator to consumer
trading history for cash
a black surface reflecting
our ugliest selves
too bestial to hide from

because here it is
the mirror, the glare
the shiny thing.
This poem was first published in Magdalena’s book ‘High Wire Step