There’s no time in traffic on 35E to honor
a place such as this—my old neighborhood in ruins. In one second my car wheels cover what was once
my brothers’ bedroom with the nursery rhyme floor.
I smell coal smoke and follow its thread back to a street where it poured from chimneys of small houses.
Breakfast was Cream of Wheat with milk brought in from the porch before it could freeze. Then find
a vent to dress by. Slacks under my skirt, scarf
over my face for the walk down West Seventh to school. Frost weighed down my eyelashes, wind bent my head
so I missed the landmarks—Mr. Thin’s outhouse, empty lot,
florist shop once standing where I’m driving now. My house went first, then the trees fell.
My parents got little from the state for it.
It’s not that I remember halcyon days. Noise of boys shouting, fights I ran from, down West Seventh to Kathy Brown’s, the one house left standing.
Yet I still love, as my brothers still love
those narrow streets, the crowded wooden
houses lit at night. One summer, as the story goes,
kids from West Seventh tried to blow up the pilings of the Mississippi river bridge they were building through the wild heart of old Crosby Farm.
I had left home by then, but I know who did it.
It is not the freeway, but our neighborhood lost in those demolished streets that lives on.
In the fire of memory, it’s transformed.