THE EVOLVING CITY
From the series Census 2000: Cincinnati
#23a. HOW DID THIS PERSON USUALLY GET TO WORK LAST WEEK?
I look down on the highway
from my third-floor balcony,
and out at polluting gray
smoke stacks of factories
that turn out personal effects
like shampoo and toothpaste.
I obsess about birth defects
from the sweet Seagram’s haze
in a different flavor every week.
The freight trains below make a ching sound
that almost makes me ignore the cheap
products they’re transporting all around
the country. When I get to the ground floor,
I brace my lungs for stale sewer air
hanging in pockets near the front door
where kids play on an abandoned chair
one week, and later it’s a full-sized couch
sitting out with no hesitation.
Then just before the corner, I slouch
past wilted, rejected carnations.
Their buds feel like bird brains as I crush them
under my shoe, but can’t make out the name
of the woman who tossed down the stems
or perhaps didn’t come home to claim
her gift on the sidewalk. I head up the hill
where cars rush past down or drag going up.
Across the yellow line, heads of daffodils
nod toward me and toward, on the ground, a B-cup
blue satin bra that’s persisted under the snow
with wrappers, cigarettes, Chinese food boxes,
and the ripped lampshade stuck in the woods down below
the cattail patch. But back up where the bra is
and remains for weeks, I pause and I wonder
if the breasts that filled it were winter translucent
or if brown skin was held tight with its under-
wire, and of course, I imagine just why it was sent
out of a car window. I worry about her.
I think of my students, invent crazy reasons.
I find myself feeling sad once I’m sure
that the bra is gone with the first mow of the season.
Jessica Haney holds an M.A. in English and an M.A. in women’s
studies from the University of Cincinnati. Until the birth of her son
in 2006, Jessica taught English and advised the literary magazine at
T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, where she also wrote
curriculum and worked on issues of diversity in advanced classes. A
native of Michigan and graduate of Kalamazoo College, Jessica is a member
of the Bethesda Writer’s Center and has had poems published in
Earth’s Daughters and Court Green.
Published in Volume
8, Number 4, Fall 2007.