From Issue 16: The Empty City

Douglas Cole

In the plaza on Howard Street
you’ll find the unlikely fountain
prohibited by iron rails
beneath a walkway encased in bronze glass
and surrounded by red – brick
would – be windows if the concept made it
through the financing,
and tucked up in there like an afterthought is
Benjamin’s Café with one woman serving
through the grim afternoon,
her face a relief map of untreated tumors.

West on Main
Lincoln stands a mute copper witness
to the convergence of afternoon drivers ,
an d further west find the Shrine Auditorium
with soot black colonnades of Corinthian dolor
and a Sphinx replica with shattered nose
inglorious on a side street
without even the embrace of a desert.

Into Peaceful Valley and Glovers Field
the young woman carries a baby in her arms
and leaves a trail of milk blankets
on the street of scattered homes
begun in the dream of the nearby river
with shopping carts in empty lots
and cars that will never run
all contained in the old woman’s gaze
as she sits on her porch
under the tides of the afternoon
clouds blowing over —
and is that the howl of water below ,
or the sigh of traffic on the bridge above?

And I ascend the steel steps
into the green hillside artifacts ,
whiskey bottles, lost coat,
newspapers, coded cry of graffiti,
turn and see one child running
through the relay of barking dogs.
Soon enough the streets empty,
not one sound but the river,
construction begun and ended
midway in rubble and oily pools,
one engine in the black train yard
going nowhere , all in all,
born old and driving their carts
over the bones of the dead
among the ghostly whispers
of spirits looking for a way back in.

 

Douglas Cole has published four collections of poetry and a Novella. He has been twice nominated for a pushcart prize and a Best of the Net and received the Leslie Hunt Memorial prize judged by T.R. Hummer. He has had work in The Chicago Quarterly Review, Chiron, The Galway Review and Slipstream among others. His website is douglastcole.com.