Feet of Missouri clay and corn-silk stubble,
I rise barely a fence post above the earth
that holds me
like a bird
under a basket.
Heat lightning in summer grass.
The sun lurks past coldly,
an estranged friend
on the opposite sidewalk
avoiding eye contact
behind a turned-up collar of silhouetted buildings.
He hangs in other hemispheres these days.
I must be last season’s affair,
if he thinks of me at all.
The day opens her doors only briefly,
pulling in her awning
as schools let out,
flipping her sign to “closed”
as the shadows grow long on the sidewalk,
slipping onto the bus before rush hour.
I pass her grated storefront
on my way to and from work,
wondering if she’s gone out of business.
The papers pile on my desk,
layers moldering together,
settling into impenetrable strata,
I should have raked them into manageable heaps
and burned them back when they first fell there.
I cannot begin to make sense of them.
They are past their deadlines
waiting as mulch for the crocuses.
James J. Kempster, 2000
My city buried in dust:
fine cement powder
coats my teeth,
burns my eyes,
stops my tongue.
All week long,
endless smoke billows over Wall Street,
filling the canyon end of Fifth Avenue,
wafting through my head
like the smell of fire in the walls.