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.

Shockoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My world
is the sinuous
curve of freeway
that flies under
glowering heavens
while herons wade
in cold waters;
the sound and
the peril
of stiletto on
stone
and the scented rhythm
of catcalls from yellow doorways.
Graffitied desperation
and the thunder of trains that run
beside old brick
under new construction
in a city that when
pressed clings
to its past as to a mother’s loving hand
but with the next
breath
dismisses her like
dog piss
on the master’s second-
best rug….

[My words
smell
of rust
and river-
rot
imbibed
not through the pores
of cortex
where
moments
become
memories but
through the primordial
pocketwatch
in the back of my
skull
telling me
when

to

breathe.]

In this land
of frozen locks
and thawed oblivions
where treachery and tolerance
sidle arm-in-arm
down cobblestoned alleys,

My voice
whistles a freedom song
to the same soundtrack
you fucked your girlfriend to last night;
rising broken-winged through the
dead smokestacks
as you haunt the canals
searching for loose virtue
or lost inspiration,
it will find you
undone.

Needle-pushers and nutmeg-peddlers,
you have been warned.

Sitting

close-legged in the James Center Starbucks i

channel my inner alchemist writing

molecules into dreams

and posing painfully

as another drip in the puddle

of humankind, my best sad delusions

melting into visible air breathed

over a single blade of grass

crowned with a frozen halo,

a

yearning or a universe trapped

there in the mud beside a stream

that flows where herons stalk

lost summer and only the

indigent and the inspired

tread the river-paths. The truth is i

love this place not two skips

from hell’s half-acre but

sometimes, lost in the ebb and curve

between railroad tracks and

monogrammed yesterdays i

wonder if the whisper

of the Devil can still be heard

above the hum of the wi-fi;

if those who sojourn in the

Burnt District of this

numbed century still

feel its scars and its sunderings

although

some things it seems haven’t

changed at all: men

are still shaped

by the subjects they should have learned

in grammar school and poets

still prefer windows and the

real truth of it is, i guess,

that here where the trains slow

and the James flows on uncomplaining,

herons have always stalked

lost summers, and ice,

like mankind’s worst

delusions, will always

melt

one sad drop

at a time.