Parking Garage by Lauren Bender


I don’t know much about architecture, but life poured concrete into my poem room. Thank you Joe Young for helping me peel the walls off. This piece was loosely about parking garages—their structure and function. I was surprised to discover in thinking about them that they are actually everything. 

Start small,

like with plaster guys.

Form follows.

parking garage walks into a bar

bartender says, you are not taking into account my human experience

what’ll you have

parking garage says, dampness

and, sometimes I melt into fog

it’s brutal

brutalism, envy, and firmness walk into a garage

a parking garage, whether

it is distinguishable from other buildings

its architecture

is its architecture distinguishable

without form to follow

other buildings

this is unknown

is this the nature of it—

of brutality, and weather

you have to go all the way up to the roof

do you have to start with the roof

what about when the parking garage becomes

metaphor, what about when

the roof melts into fog

would the kids still reject it having not seen

its façade

– of the body

– of the mind

– of a structure/house

– of language/poem?

– of Helsinki

– of government

– of Aggression

– of teaching

– of happiness

– figurative is apparently a type

after hours a form on the mezzanine

becomes grainy and indecipherable

cats know this


equally, they pretend, and pacify, and

fawn, and

get hungry

how does a person cope with vastness and

indecipherability—do they just go back home or

just walk back to the car and maybe

kneel or no—what is meant by having

lost in the middle of the night

mothers don’t feel real, and

neither does a cheeseburger

or some other

participle (which is existence)

quiet, all quiet, usurped by

running water usurped by the dark

scenes recede to slurry gray and then it’s

time to take the shuttle

(usurped by the space inside a space, a mundanity)

violet afterimage betrays spaces on spaces

where does a person become soluble, like a pet,

xanthic, like a flower,

yellow after yellow after yellow after yellow, after wet,

zillionaires don’t need to remember their level

“Firmitas, utilitas, venustas.” In fact it ticks all three. It is generous. Is it humble? It is not austere. A parking garage has no more perfect proportions than any human body. Is it a cathedral? A square is a rectangle; my man is a cardinal. The parking garage itself does not take your money, your arm outstretched, Vitruvian. Then there are the acoustics! Which was your level—an oriole? My man, from his navel, is a science, a triad, arising, and figurative. Consider the optics of this—you could do that thing with your key fob, sure, but what about the birds? The optics of suggesting and extending, as if a body is the universe. I’m begging you.

Let me explain. I was trying to explain. You have to go up first before you can come down; there’s just no way around it. Get it? You have to start with the roof. The gift shop. I was on stage, with my Man and my mother, covered in every pink thing I could find, singing that song by The Band. I am trying to explain to you the beauty of this design–that if the whole thing collapsed flat, it would be perfect. You could just pull it right back up to standing; it’s a trick. A safe trick. Is it safe? It’s like an accordion, but it is a lantern. Can we come down? We are standing on the stairs, under so many blankets, and start to sway: “Put the load, put the load right on me.”

Zuckerbergs of antiquity, let me see

your stale crusts (rattling around like

xenophobic frat boys at 2:30am), the box

where you have stashed your patents,

vinyl from some sick dig, and your

“u up?” before dawn–go up before you go downtown

tired and having tried some type of speed

(structurally like a dove, but on a whole other level)

“rediscovered” something dove-like, evoking dove,

quiet clucks and coos by the window, two on the rocks,

peaceful morning to be covered in every pink thing

oh, darling architecture, turning coral

nevermind how you treat her; you learn

Mandarin and get married in the yard

lo, regular people, and

kiss her, embarrassed, and lose your treatise

just when I think 

I have no idea what this poem is about

he appears, and centuries collapse

garages collapse 

façades collapse and crumble

eateries and auditoriums and water parks and

dive bars embed into the book and then–


box of crusts, and doves, and dynasty; a valley; a crush injury

aqueducts for gardens, extravagant, with only gravity

  • Aqua Appia (unsophisticated/buried)
  • Aqua Anio Vetus (raised)
  • Aqua Marcia (wholesome)
  • Aqua Julia (confusing)
  • Aqua Virgo (does not chalk significantly)
  • Aqua Claudia (one of the four greats)
  • Aqua Traiana (collection of sources)
  • Many are described as having fallen into disuse

there is an idea to paint rowhomes the exact color

of a certain time of day, so that they

can disappear very briefly with everyone inside

it would never work, and this is why I am a failure

I fail at architecture, and at failing

all those years requiring scaffolding and people

to clean the windows (like actually sitting inside of the frame 

and leaning out into nothing with a bottle of Windex and a rag),

awaiting condemnation, 

and now I am a house inside a house, like an apartment

palette neutral (quiet, surprised)

sitting  inside the frame and disappearing

very briefly

What did one stone mason say to another stone mason when he felt underappreciated? “Don’t take me for granite!” 

What kind of acrobat reads files and is also made of mud? Adobe.

What do you get when you cross durability, utility, and beauty?

Go big: Scientology.

Episodic, validated,

Lots and lots of cars

Lauren Bender lives proudly in Baltimore and was the erstwhile author of Whale Box (Publishing Genius Press) and co-editor for Narrow House, a publisher of interdisciplinary writing and recordings. Otherwise Lauren is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst working with children with autism, is an identical twin, and enjoys running around aimlessly in the woods.

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