Cedar Rapids, IA, 2008

Shook foil—that’s what a river is.  Catfish hauled like bars
of iron

from a mid-town bridge,
the wire that holds them

so flexed with twisting it bleeds a mercury back
to the water

the exact length of childhood:
gradient through Butler County, Blackhawk,

Now, early third millennium,

the Cedar rages all night from the north
(less crushed oil

than river sludge,
all the down-sloping streets’

hammering run-off).
The city,

a ruined Venice.
My mother weeps at all the gilded damage.

The ornate Paramount,
the Court House rising—white stone island

on its island
now buried, middle of the river

until the city is re-grained,

fractured, grafted,
a 1937 bus ride

with nickel candy, early 60’s/

my brother standing one block off the river

one week post-flood
a full head below the high water line.

If YouTube is the way we mourn,
if soundtrack, if

then I am a boy again in a Chevy

cruising that curve
past Quaker Oats

and the factory where my father worked,
past the hospital

where I was born,

full of greening summer
and second-hand smoke,

the beautiful scarf
of adulthood alive in the scent of beer,

ball of tar
warm in the hand like a just-birthed heart…

Ah, Atlantis—
already I’m forgetting your raw papyrus

to be written on
dries months later

(the houses still rotting)
when I drive your streets to this ghetto-ed dirt.

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