They say in Pompeii the ruins are of stone people
caught in their misery, preserved for eternity.
But here in a city of moldering slag, the ruins return
in ghost gardens that bloom in abandoned neighborhoods,
overgrown fire lilies and amaryllis that sway
in cadence in places where houses once stood.
He takes me driving through the wreckage, to see
what can be saved and when there is nothing we
escape down the necks of these smooth, glass bottles
into the sweet yeast, the carbonation burning my esophagus,
all the way down to the cracked sidewalks of neglected
city intestines, where green things still grow.
Alone I eat steamed buns with collards milled in pork fat
as a woman in a tall chef's hat serves me what is left
of this nation of nothing's diluted kindness.
From her yard I watch as children bicycle without feet
on pedals, balancing their bodies on thin frames, then
I remember this is where you were raised. You,
former janitor with milk-blue eyes, your voice
strong as fibroin silk. True hero in workman's clothes.
Here, they burn homes to keep sickness at bay,
to purge the decay which turns to mold anyway.
They come in with hoses and this is the dance that keeps them sane
from fire to water to life back to fire to set these wet ashes aflame.