THE EVOLVING CITY

Katherine E. Young

 

CENTRALIZED HEATING
Moscow, Russia


When the heat resumes its liquid journey
through iron casings bent like whalebone stays
to fit a waist of air, I read the death
notices: “Died from burns suffered when ice
gave way above a ruptured heating pipe.”
And still they lay uninsulated pipe
because that is what they have always done.
Strange to imagine whole neighborhoods, whole

cities being bound by iron girdles
of heating lines and water mains; each year
a few unlucky souls tumble into
their ancient workings, dead of a theory
that was never quite perfected. Outside
it’s March, pale-gray, snowing. First I blow on
my cold-white fingers, seamed and broken like
the earth of some forgotten riverbed;

then I press them to the radiator,
as yet only lukewarm. Across the way,
a woman uses the new-warm water
for her wash; wet bras, girdles, lingerie
stretch rigid and plain across her window.
I hear the groan of water coursing through
pipe, the murmuring plaint of thousands of
taps turning in unison, the scream of

a child being scalded to death inside
a manhole (though that happened long ago,
in America). All that we share, I
and the washerwoman across the way,
are these heating veins, these leafless birch trees
in the yard; but I wonder if she knows
the feel of heat on my dead hands, or in
the shriveled-up place that once held my heart.

 

 

Katherine E. Young's poems have appeared in The Iowa Review (where she is a three-time finalist for the Iowa Award), Southern Poetry Review, Shenandoah, and Carolina Quarterly. A chapbook, Gentling the Bones, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. She co-hosts Café Muse in Friendship Heights, MD, and teaches poetry in the Arlington, VA, public schools.

credits

 

Published in Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 2007.

To read more by this author:
Katherine E. Young: Museum Issue