blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


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Granite City

City hospital on one hill,
city dump on the other. Heat lightning
strafed the night between them.
The hospital smokestack blinked like a boy
agape at his first car crash.

House of my parents, ambulances
sped by with three blocks to go.
My grandparents walked home arm in arm
after dinner, Allied armies falling in
with textbooks and racing forms.

The war was over, the enemy lived on.
August came, plums turned purple
in the market, but only the red ones pleased me.
My great-aunts cleared customs, bundled
with gifts and smelling of Europe.

Terraces of granite rose from the sea.
On the heights each watery quarry had a name
and a legend, atomic creatures, gangland
graves, a kid who dived and disappeared in 1959
but died in Quang Tin from a punji spike.

When we got to the quarry, our towels rolled, the police
were taking names. Someone was missing.
Would you like a bowl of cold borscht,
asked my grandmother, listening to my story.
Beet-red, sour cream swirled it out of plasma.

History begins with indignation
because it’s so hard to remember
what’s been remembered. Sarcophagus
of John Adams in the First Parish Church.
His wife and son in stone beside him.

Divers failed to find the body in the blind fathoms.
It was a girl, someone shoved her.
The father asked the city to pump it out.
Curbstones, gravestones, churches, all cut
from that hole filled with rainwater.  

(reprinted by permission of Houghton-Mifflin Company)

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