I don't drink wine, but I love your new bottle --
round and wide enough for thousands of guests to get drunk
off the song and dance that pour out of your Center for the Arts.
You're the new shade of cool in our palette of art.
You're the hot new high school kid that makes others
melt in the shadow of your bright lights. And some grumble
that you have stolen their girlfriends, honed in on their fans.
But they should be reminded that you did not invent art.
Before the last platinum nail was beaten into your roof,
before your walls ricocheted with soprano notes as gentle as the crash of crystal tears, the foundation of art and music was already built.
Quirky thespians in ripped tights and faces bright with rouge
used to act in the parks for pennies. The roads here were paved
with blood from the backs of break-dancers spinning in the streets,
and sidewalks were smoothed by the grand jete' of ballerinas.
Songbirds once fluttered out of the parched throats of singers
who bellowed inside auditoriums, flanked by basketball hoops and hope --
all of their hearts beating with the symphony drums of progress.
And if you listen, you can still hear the electric pulse of poetry
buzzing through the wiring and into your ears.
This town has always known excellence in arts.
Look into the starry-eyes of its performers. Listen
to the stories in their souls that first erupted on small stages.
Help them to never forget where they were born.
I'm glad that we look up to your Center for the Arts,
but we must remember our old friends, too. They were here
when we got started. I hope they will be here when we come back.
Art is made by people who have no locks on the doors
to their imagination. These artists stand tall on every corner of our city
and should not have to wait for the green light of envy to dim
before they cross back into the center of our lives.
Pierstorff is the city of Modesto poet laureate, 2004-2008