Buildings so close flames leapt from one to next
and no dry wood refused its fire.
Heat literally, physically, jerked out every root.
People roamed about, not knowing where they were.
Some burst through doors.
Others plunged from windows.
There were mourners, women in great sorrow,
children screaming, already beyond losing everything
city burn-scape in the flares of summer,
scrappy old men with their fragile wives,
lives they entrusted to roofs over heads,
weeping through all of their incarnations,
right up to the ash they would someday become.
I watched fire-trucks, ambulances, cop-cars,
insurance agents pulling out their books of business.
I saw the smoke sky, the tortured red horizon,
blockaded streets in all directions.
I felt the need for rules.
I hummed along to the nervous melodies.
And next morning, I'm thinking, where did it all go?
The garden withers equally with the flesh.
The edge of the Earth can center in its city.
The clueless, the looters, the shameless,
the souls stripped of everything...
those are the terrors I'm in awe of.
That's the flipside to the dreams we're made of.
And it was a bad night for infrastructure.
For schemes in life. For well-laid plans.
We own so little of the world's bounty,
so much of its scorn.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. His latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.