Unnamed Alley By the Mall
Awful, and yet pathways between the towers
though landscaped professionally lead one through
to destinations not wholly preformed.
Even a starling makes a statement; even
a squirrel finds resources enough for life
outside the approved planning document.
A short stroll from ATM to Starbucks
finds the homeless and laborers alike
relevant and alive, fearful only
as storm-blown migrants flying home at last.
Rest stop superlatives along the road,
like the civil engineering once thought
critical to every party, a wealth
literally concrete, the intangible
the province of art rather than finance.
Only now the nostalgia of decline
feeding sideways into lugubrious song
and a wry kind of sloganeering hubris.
No one can afford their dreams anymore –
the disconnection of propaganda
from material reality makes
wise-acre North Koreans of us all.
The Dear Leaders make good television
and always know who their enemies are.
The snowdrops are early and hawks have stayed
in numbers swelled by migrants from the north.
Winter hardly started before spring came
more as harbinger than relief. Days past
seasons led us to think of life and death,
but only lately of apocalypse,
as sweetly as bouquets at a funeral;
subtle as sleet falling in place of snow.
If no older than we feel, the species
will change its games to play in every clime.
Silly to want the sets to stay the same,
with the same trees giving shade, the same birds
serenading changes in the weather
that interrupt their fragile, pretty lives.
M. A. Schaffner has work recently published or forthcoming in The Hollins Critic, Magma, Tulane Review, Gargoyle, and The Delinquent. Other writings include the poetry collection The Good Opinion of Squirrels, and the novel War Boys. Schaffner spends most days in Arlington, Virginia or the 19th century.
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