Thursday, January 31, 2013

Visiting the Flood

Every bicycle spill was the stuff of legend
where I drive carefully now on narrow streets.
Lower on the flood plane the roads lie blocked
by hulking containers of the wreckage left.
It was never an easy place to live: factories south,
the railroad east, a great pile of junk fenced off
in the middle where a dog used to bark on and on.

They've refurbished Riverside Cemetery where the monuments
toppled through age and violence, but the graves remain
unsettled, receding and rising again from these waters.
A glistening road leads in among them revealed.
Further west the flood becomes a brown river,
its deep boils spark, biding time till another rain.

Over and over I told the story of the handlebar
hitting my gut when I skidded on a gravel spot
in front of Fred's house, but only remember it now
this morning when I must have passed that place
but can't remember the spot. Or we'd ride fast
down into the river bottom, lock the brakes and skid
the gravel on the roadside far as many feet possible,

down to a drab grocery store to buy candy and cokes.
By age fourteen I'd already forgotten the place until
Charlie robbed it for silver dollars he threw, liberated
treasure to kids lined up for a school bus and the ride
to halls that smelled of polish and disinfectant.
Charlie they led away in bright handcuffs.
Back then it seemed the place cherished disorder,
accumulating aluminum chairs and even today these
bright pinwheels upon their friendly porches
over yards that must seem large to the kids
and their dreams of loud stock cars.

An African Methodist Episcopal church stands
at the rim of the flood. Below there lies
the lost foundation of the racist UFO cult.
One night the sky lit up and I went along
with my mother and father to watch that headquarters,
long in disrepair, rise in flames before a multitude.

This morning I only look to be awake and remember
what the flood reveals, only to revisit it and find
surprise driving to a spot where both the road
and rail spur end, not because of high water
but because there's nowhere left for them to turn
but back and out of here: where I've found my heart
in a damaged place. I coast past an iron truss,
its rust in sunlight. A dog still barks for a way out.

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