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Friday, September 07, 2018


by Anne Myles

On the boulevard, strange markings have appeared:
white dots in the corner of some sidewalk segments.
The mystery intrudes on us, unsettling.
A neighbor stands looking but she doesn’t know either.
Later, a letter from the city informs us
they show each section that’s heaved up, sunken,
cracked, uneven; we must replace them or the city will.

The segments lie in earthen beds
that breathe and toss across the seasons.
Why can’t they just remain, I wonder,
bearing their own flawed histories?
The dying ashes were cut down in December;
now in July we hear the roar of stump-grinders.
Beside the bare dirt circles left behind,
saplings of different species stand between their guys
like shy children in an unfamiliar class.

On TV I watch the skycam pan
over the mountains and lavish fields of France,
roads winding, dazed with so much past,
while the peloton grinds upwards. A rider falls back,
grimacing; the announcer cries out, oh, he’s cracked!

Outside, my neighbor Roger walks by slowly with his dog;
I’ve been watching them for years.
Now both will die soon, only one of them from age.
He relates his sentence calmly.
Whenever he appears, I can’t stop wondering
what he sees in the evening sky now, in the trees.
An artist, he has painted the fields of Iowa
and over them a plot of faint ruled lines,
as if seeing left a trace on what is seen.

This is a time of seeing, isn’t it.
This is a season of waiting for what comes.
The plot laid bare at last, and then what happens?
As the child asks her mother reading a story.
And this is not simply a thing that happened once.
This is a thing that is still happening
and will continue to happen.
This is an incredible, unprecedented moment—
that’s what I read in the news today.

The crickets have begun to sing at dusk,
reminding me of every summer I have lived—
that smell in the breeze as the leaves lift—
and everything that won’t happen any more.
I want it back if only to look at and remember.
I want my country back. I want to step
on every sidewalk crack and tilt as if
there were no question, as if it all were just what is.

Author's Note: The italicized lines in the penultimate stanza are from the opinion piece "Trump, Treasonous Traitor" by Charles M. Blow, New York Times, July 15, 2018.

Originally from New York, Anne Myles is associate professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa. A specialist in early American literature, she has recently rediscovered her poetic voice, one effect of the present troubles she is thankful for. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ghost City Review, Ink and Nebula, Friends Journal, Lavender Review, and Thimble.