where will you stand when it rises

the sound of jackhammers
ceased, cranes stand
expectant. they tell me
there is growth here,
but the streets are broken
open, slip
sores to the ebbing
flow of days.

still, they pull fewer bodies
from these waters
than one might think;
a tribute to the sinking power
of upward mobility.

in the Bottom,
men work the corners
in teams. you hardly see
the flower-seller
anymore.

the night runs through
fog-off-the-river shadow,
streetlight over slick
cobblestone. like so many things,
headlight distances
can be deceiving.

the first train mourns slow
through middle trestle
headed West; the second
runs canalside at speed,
coal in darkness.
their rhythm blurs time and distance,
and suddenly we could be anywhere,
and in it lie forgiveness.

there is a single petal in red
at the center of the pipeline,
a dead finch on brick sidewalk
come morning. the jackhammer
is awake.

on the near side of the hill,
the bottom floor of Sanger Hall
is seeping[1], and they are pulling
bodies into the elevators.
upward mobility.

i never used those shafts
if i could help it.
eight flights then was the easy part[2].
we find our history like headlights:
not so bitter now, not so dead.

there is growth here, too.

[1] “VCU’s Sanger Hall remains closed after water main break,” R.Daudani. http://www.nbc12.com. Nov 26, 2013. What no headline or article mentions: VCU Medical Center’s morgue resides in the bottom floor of Sanger; immediate effects of this fact, real or imagined, are my own.

[2]The gross anatomy (cadaver) lab was on the eighth floor.

observations from a hard plastic chair

every man’s socks look dingier under the fluorescent E-R lights. the nurse
wears false eyelashes on the midnight shift; they ask why i’m here.
her pulled-out tee shows tops of oranged cleavage we pretend to not
see. there is urine under your bed when they roll you away, but not yours.
the stain clashes well with the grey-green tile, just the color of stale love.
the nurse, eyes on the desk now, is talking about another patient.
“suicidal.” “schizophrenic.” i can hear her calling from here.

shadowboxing

Hill top in fall

This poem is not for you.

It walks behind me and laughs,
says you must
have strength to be
gentle (and tho i feel like crying);
We take pride in being southpaws.

This poem doesn’t hear the hurt
in a message (maybe)
meant for me, sent
to the second of your ex-wives.

(This poem
thinks things
with an ex-
are so insubstantial
as to nonexist.
We disagree.)

It kisses me
on my merlot mouth,
doesn’t mention
the knife on the floor.

This poem knows its whiskeys
like truths: starkly & burning
in the back of the throat, finds
nothing light in either.
(Often there is strength
with no gentleness.)

It  takes the Bottom paths,
sticks to canal lines,
the water, the river,
railroad overhead rumbling,

thinks about boxcars, speaks
my wistful, bitter into where
no one can hear, knows
i too always take the riverpaths
up Hill (and, sadly,
will not follow you home).