Wednesday, January 26, 2011

247. A Poem Left Under Suspicion

I don’t write poems for cities
even the one I live in

          in a desultory way
          unengaged
          with harbor from winter
          and the snow comes down

          Sometimes at night
          as each snowflake is caught
          in the light through the house
          and out to the street

          each is a moth
          fat and wet and
          fluttering down
          into damp piles of wet moth

I don’t remember the dead
who’ve died almost on my doorstep

          the homeless man
          found deep enough into spring
          that the snow had melted away
          to reveal him

          dead from winter
          from the cold or
          illness and buried
          deep into snow

          at the end of our alley
          but right off it into the
          edge of the woods
          that’s the edge of our park

          or the boy beaten
          in the park’s playground
          to death by a group of kids
          one a student of my wife’s

          all for an offense
          against some point of honor
          no longer remembered
          or kept inside the heart

          or just before this last
          Christmas Eve and the man
          a week after a fire that gutted
          his apartment building

          around the corner from here
          and he wasn’t missed for
          all that time
          taken away wrapped in a tarp

          my son and his girlfriend
          driving by saw the transfer
          of the body to the authorities
          and continued on

          all of these dead
          men by the way
          but that one student
          a girl

So you can see
why I don’t write poems about cities

          not even this one
          good enough to live in
          rotted out by its own
          grand past

          the birthplace of television
          which I rarely watch
          an industrial city
          of electricity and trains

           “the city that lights
          and hauls the world”
          thousands once downtown
          only to build things

          of metal and might
          but we are long past
          that industrial past
          we try to keep present

This letter I meant
as a birthday wish
and I suppose mentioning it
somehow makes it so

but it’s not about this city
where I write my words
where I sit in the dark
awaiting the onset of slumber

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