That Lights and Hauls the World


I come from a despised place,
a shrinking city selling off
its nurseries for trauma wards.
I am a son of cobweb, rust,
long rot and quiet abandon. Never
worked the turbines steaming beside
the Mohawk River, never endured
the pink slips and the midnight U-Hauls.
Still, when I open my mouth around
the beautiful name of my town, I risk
apologetic nods or cackles.
Still, when a drizzle begins on certain
carbon-strangled boulevards,
my town’s name isn’t beautiful enough.


We didn’t know our streets were ruins.
Early March, with crocuses
and last year’s yellow pages poking
through the snow, we lingered over
smokes on secret porches, sure
the center held. And so it did.
Before the nurses whipped away
the sheets and showed us gangrene, we
aroused the sleeping alleys with
our swagger. Erie, Ferry, Seward,
Morningside, the ripped-upholstered
stools of tired confectioners
were home, were ours — before the choice
to flee the sinking vessel or to sing.


I sang the coffee bottomless
and burnt, the empty parks, the tracks
that cut the Great Flats into teeming
scars of industry. I dogeared
atlases, came home over
and over, distant tongues tucked in
my overcoat, home to the same
homely river. Every now and then
the future merchants docked and hawked
revival, but under my skin I knew
the only sure return was grass
to the faces of graves, was gulls
to the closed Ramada lot in droves,
was the dreaming eye to the drowning freckles of loves.


In a Thai restaurant attached to a bowling
alley, in a thunder of chilis
and pins, I said goodbye to my Cali-
fornia girl and flew to the smoking
empty east, my echoing nest,
and spent my twenty-second autumn
tending to rusty chrysanthemums
in a stiff-steering pickup truck
emblazoned with my city’s name:
I guess the West was too in bloom
too often, too abundant, too easy –
so back to the ball and chain, its greasy
toast, its dogs and sauce, because that’s
what we do here, because hunger is good for the cook.


Angel of the impound lot,
essence of the omelet onion,
give me one more day to see and
smell and taste. On this grey slate
is the brilliance of lichen and ivy furthest
from lost, in this undignified damp
are skunkweed and mulberry most at home.
I’ll sing your bee-stung body in
the sweetness it deserves. I’ll leave you
one day where I found you: marsh
behind right field where decades of homers
return to mush. Watching them sail
above the busted scoreboard, through the pale
canal of sky between workday and dark.

Noah Kucij