(for Osip Mandelstam)
You snarl along the river,
a nervous spectacle, like a watchdog
which never sleeps and barks
at the scent of strangers.
Pitched over a sphere of tar
and grid of red brick rows,
you squat on ribs of steel and stone
that stretch across the stark horizon
like muscled fiber to a carapace
that crawls across the decades.
That monocled helpless orb
broods over your restless arteries.
Twin lights puncture your street veins
intersecting byways bearing strangers
through the numberless corners of night.
Are you, you disheveled beast, a talisman
and we the inheritors of your sprawl,
or are you a glistening web
spun of several million expectations
stranding a maze of worried rooms?
Your red signal beams, like flashing
totems, scale the twilight sky
like links of a giant climbing chain.
The aroma of baked bread dough wafts
the wind like incense. The loaves
of faces yeast the rise of generations
and crust of ages. Honeysuckle too
sweetens evening air scents of summer.
I press your fevered pulse to my ear
and listen to your hum and flow.
Red brick spectacle, scene of old wounds.
Yesterdays. Streets, years, tears,
I was among your mourners. My veins
bring me back to your alleys, shoulders,
thoroughfares. The wail of abandoned rows
cuts my skin like a razor. Pins must be
set into your joints. A new cast splint
onto your broken bones for your shell
cracks, hardens, splits, must be set anew.
So backs must bear the heavy beams.
Broadside Series - Contents