Progress in Public

Or, learning to share things that aren’t finished.  A few weeks ago I asked my students to write a poem that included a color, a household appliance, a memory, and a prediction for the future.  Then, we took the poems and inverted them, writing them “backwards” to see what might happen.  Sometimes it makes sense—and sometimes it doesn’t.

Wilmington, April 2016

Red sauce, splatters on the white
stove, coiled black burners
hot, still, beyond the heat
from the gas-lit flowers
(neon, white blue, invisible
blue) that, now, are gone.
A man on the street cracks
cement—but this is miles
away, past the park, past
the Jewel Apartments,
across the river where, in
the night, a forest burned
until this city filled with
smoke and the trees were
gauzed, ashed.

In twenty years that forest will
regrow, small shoots in the swamp
soggy from rain and runoff,
herons stalking in the reeds.
Their eyes ringed with red,
shocking, ringed bright blue.
They pause, one foot
in the air, before the moment
they strike through the water
and find something
speared from below.

***

Speared from below
they find something
and strike through the water.
In the air, before the moment—
they pause, one foot
shocking bright blue,
their eyes ringed with red,
herons stalking in the reeds
soggy from rain and runoff.
Small shoots in the swamp.

In twenty years that forest will
be gauzed, ashed
smoke and trees
until this city filled with
the night.
A forest burned
across the river where, in
the Jewel Apartments,
away, past the park, past
cement—but this is miles
(a man on the street cracks
blue) that now are gone
(neon, white blue, invisible)
away from the gas-lit flowers
still, beyond the heat,
the coiled black burners
red sauce, splatters on the white
hot stove.

 

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