An Anthology of Poems Celebrating the 90th Birthday
of Cleveland Poet Russell Atkins
AN ORDINARY EVENING IN CLEVELAND
by Lewis Turco
Just so it goes: the day, the night —
what have you. There is no one on TV;
shadows in the tube, in the street.
In the telephone there are echoes and mumblings,
the buzz of hours falling thru wires.
And hollow socks stumbling across
the ceiling send plaster dust sifting down
hourglass walls. Felix the cat has
been drawn on retinas with a pencil of light.
I wait gray, small in my cranny,
for the cardboard tiger on the
kitchen table to snap me, shredded, from
Over the trestle go
the steel beetles grappled tooth-and-tail — over and
over and over there smokestacks
lung tall hawkers into the sky's
spittoon. The street has a black tongue: do you
hear him, Mistress Alley, wooing
you with stones? There are phantoms in that roof's trousers;
they kick the wind. The moon, on a
ladder, is directing traffic
now. You can hardly hear his whistle. The
oculist's jeep wears horn rim wind
shields; the motor wears wires on its overhead valves —
grow weary, weary, sad siren,
you old whore. It's time to retire.
The wail of the child in the next room quails
like a silverfish caught in a
thread. It is quiet now. The child's sigh rises to
flap with a cormorant's grace through
the limbo of one lamp and a
slide-viewer in your fingers: I cannot
get thin enough for light to shine
my color in your eyes; there is no frame but this for
the gathering of the clan. Words
will stale the air. Come, gather up
our voices in the silent butler and
pour them into the ashcan of
love. Look, my nostrils are dual flues; my ears are
the city dump; my eyes are the
very soul of trash; my bitter
tongue tastes like gasoline in a ragged
The child cries again. Sounds
rise by the riverflats like smoke or mist in time's
bayou. We are sewn within seines
of our own being, thrown into
menaces floating in shadows, taken
without volition like silver
fish in an undertow down the river, down time
and smog of evenings.
The child cries.
Do you hear the voice of wire?
Do you hear the child swallowed by carpets,
the alley eating the city,
rustling newsprint in the street begging moonlight with
a tin cup and a blindman's cane?