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Sunday, September 28, 2008


by Paula Sergi

Even the potted
plants are in shock, either dead
from water-logging
or spindly and anxious as a teenager
trying to understand
such sudden growth. The river’s
settled back,
its brown signature
layered over parking lots, flood’s farewell.

July fourth arrives but it’s more like Spring,
cool days, blanketed nights,
and a slow rebirth of sorts: debris removed
from curbs, always the rolled-up carpet
and lingering brown lawn spots
(marking victims like a cross on the door,)
where faint green can be seen
grass faithful to itself,
while nettles and buckthorn grow wild.

Business is good,
for once, for lawn repairs and fix-it men;
more than they can handle;
not a mason to be had. And hope?
Plenty of that: hope
the basement holds, does not implode
on any rainy day, hope
its loosened cinder blocks stay put
till fall. Hope the banker calls,
approves a loan, or FEMA
comes through ‘cause we’re not black,
just blue collar, hope the best man
wins in November.

Some sodden flags will hang
from door ways, some veterans will walk
down Main Street behind
some farmers on their tractors,
since the crops are dwarfed or gone,
pants low and showing
more than we want to see.

It’s a holiday, but the city feels abandoned
yet neighbor kids insist
on lighting cherry bombs which resonate
less like celebration than combat.
more water than we’d ever want,
even the Fox River toxic.

A holiday, all day to drink
More beer than we need,
to delay or suspend what must be faced.
Some fireworks will flash, saved
from city hall while
documents floated, and notices went down
with the post office,
some wanted men gone free.

Paula Sergi is the author of Family Business, a chapbook from Finishing Line Press, and co-editor of Boomer Girls: Poems by Women from the Baby Boom Generation, University of Iowa Press. Forthcoming from Kaplan Publishing are two anthologies she co-edited, Meditations on Hope and A Call to Nursing. She holds a BSN from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College.