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.

This is not

what was meant to be sprouted from scarlet, this: your exhortation to stop picking at scabs, the crusted-over crimson of searching fingers. I meant it to be about the blood of history, all sticky rust and slave-set-free-catharsis, set outside train station where truth is buried under a clouded highway overpass and redemption pulls away with a groaning of unoiled engines. But time taps out what it will, and I have a talent for scars. Sigh, and sigh. Let’s, then, try to keep our own story from becoming pock-marked & pot-holed: the burial-ground-turned-parking-lot of that old hospital where I first learned to stitch (with catgut in formalin-fumed skins of forever), will wait.

Written after a stroll through what is called “Hell’s half-acre,” which encompasses archaeological sites for Lumpkin’s slave jail, burial grounds and city gallows. The I-95 overpass, Main Street Station, and parking lots for students and employees of the Medical College of Virginia (where I did first learn to suture) all overlap/border the sites. Linked in for Five-Sentence Fiction with the prompt “scarlet.” Could we call this my first attempt at flash, do you think?

grandfather on God and Richmond, right-justified

 

………. I’m not sure about God.
I’ve seen too much of ugliness for it
to be intentional,
………. too much
of beauty for it     not to be.
……….  ………. Take,

for example,
……………….. the downtown silhouette
from across the Manchester Bridge
on a winter’s early evening, the
moon just shy of full,     blushing
behind lit twelfth-storey windows, the soul-eyes
of a city half-wrapped in rivermist
and dinner plans, grinning teeth
of January jack-o’-lanterns reflecting
over rock and rapid.
……………….. Or
Fourteenth and Main
on a rainy rush hour,     drops
………. spilling river-ward through traffic light
and streetlamp, tires
leaving splashmarks across
the footprint of cavalry and

………………………… slave.

Better yet, walk    with    me
through the whispers
at Belle Island, where the voices of fallen prisoners
haunt the college kids sunning like
………. sea lions out over the self-same
rocks. (Have you seen what they feed them in those cafeterias lately?)

……………….. When autumn comes,
the waters will rise in waves, creeping up
………. on the empty beer cans and cigarette
……………….. packs, washing them down
past Chapel Isle and the ruins of the Confederate boatyard
as the river     runs         home.

………………………….. When
I’m dying,
take me to the old hospital
where McGuire’s successors taught
medicine with stolen bodies;     no
chain-linkedSaint-named designer cure
for this gentlesoul.            Andwhen

I’m dead
take me to
Hollywood
………. and a spot
……………….. where I can see the river
………. from a grave
without a cross:
I’m still
not too sure about God.