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Wednesday, June 24, 2009


by Catherine McGuire

One home in thirteen empty,
that thirteenth family set wandering,
the albatross mortgage dead around their necks.
To whom do they tell their tale?
This one is coffined -- cheap plywood
closing windows like dead eyes.
Next door is newly-orphaned, ghosted
by the family who fled last night or last week --
the windows unclouded, the lawn still green.

Two doors up, a third -- rivulets of black rain
graffiti the trim, as does paint sprayed in gang-spoor,
red and black, on the door.
A block away, one like road kill, vulture-ridden:
insides gutted of appliances and lamps
even the copper veins are stripped;
hacked corpse left rotting.

Across town, duplex rowhouse doubly forsaken,
red bricks sprayed with hot orange note --
Do Not Enter - UNSAFE. Whatever happened inside
stays inside. Curling up a hill, three half-baked shells;
the bubble burst before their studs were dry;
the cul-de-sac now twice a dead-end.

Nearby, a foreclosure sign: the bank is looking
for some brass-knuckle investor to drop-kick the old widow
still living inside. She peers from between dishtowel curtains
at the clear-windowed box with its colorful descriptions
of her family’s much-loved rooms.

The blight proceeds unevenly: an unseen loft above a vacant grocery;
a pretty yellow bungalow, front porch strewn
with collapsed lawn chairs, trike, plastic buckets, bags of trash.
Some blocks have just two families left;
some are whole -- for now.

Take a walk; count thirteen as you go; picture it.

Catherine McGuire now peeks at the news through sheltering fingers. A third of her poetry is political; the rest is about Nature - before it's too late.