The city was built on Cambrian rifts,
boot-sucking mud, a rush to stake alliances.
Now it’s birch, white pine, and alder creaking,
a low, flat tailings pond where nothing thrives.
Cat’s cradle of a radio tower the only hint
that the human hive once buzzed,
air-drilling its way from darkness to darkness.
Like trees in Kyiv that have been dead for twenty years,
still fully in leaf, you imagine breaking a branch
and hearing the hiss and crack of a voice.
Doesn’t an engine revving somewhere seem to lend the flies
that gather round us like a prayer? There’s no one here.
Mushrooms tilt their mitres like a brotherhood,
break the locked box in the wood. A sticking point:
that the day has never been more beautiful and clear;
this place you’re more likely to be struck by lightning
than attacked by a bear. Into spore-charged air
the blow-by-blow seems to take—that, in the beginning,
houses bloomed like campanulas on the highest point;
that, in the end, it wasn’t the mine but the mall that collapsed.
This appeared in the April 2015 issue.