Chris Roberts-Antieau  © 2008 All Rights Reserved

Fire Escape As Axis Mundi

A guitar queries the fire escape
a hundred stories above

and cigarette embers drift down
like search lights,

nostalgic and prophetic,
the dna of a century,

falling into the past
and future equally

falling from a place beyond both,
and everywhere the bent pale

flowers, all ruffled and wrong
and Jacob’s angels descending

the clotheslines into Harlem,
sky below and death above,

a little spiral wind of
kitchen smoke—

then someone laughs into the invisible,
a thief stops to touch

the glass mouth of a mannequin,
no moon but gravity’s

helix—and night
welded to its corner beams,

sweet meaningless night,
reliquary for the irrational

to whom I address my prayer.





And when she could walk no further
she fell between the tracks to give birth.
Not a boy but a tree

rooted to the spot and began to grow
so that by dawn it might be strong enough
to stop the train.

The myrtle wore a fine yellow ash.
Gravel carried there by lackeys
was enough earth,

star chatter sifting down into drifts
was enough light for me, drunk on placenta
and too young to understand the odds.

Wind shined out from the mountain.
Cities grew up to either side.
Mother was facing the wrong way

so I sprouted backwards
into time
where no train could harm us.


Chad Sweeney
Copyright © 2008


Chad Sweeney is the author of Arranging the Blaze (Anhinga, 2009), An Architecture (BlazeVOX, 2007), and A Mirror to Shatter the Hammer (Tarpaulin Sky, 2006). Chosen for Best American Poetry 2008 by Charles Wright, Sweeney’s poems and translations have appeared widely. He is co-editor of Parthenon West Review and editor of Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sounds (City Lights Books, 2009).

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