S.B. Merrow

On a still day in the time of cicadas,
tops of the trees are buzzing.
I take a walk on a narrow road,
busier avenues roaring
with commuters, honking trucks,
my padded footsteps the one
soft sound—this blue-speared
chicory was not here yesterday,
I think, recalling the ways
and everything that we forget—
the million gems
beneath our street,
green serpentine, amethyst—
the way a low sun scrapes
across damp grasslands, the tallest clumps
shining like beacons—
the fact that our lives are seasonal brooks,
shallow and flowing, for now—
when a skinny man
approaches with a limp and a cane,
then turns around to walk the other way,
looks over his shoulder and calls to me
“you ever get turned around ass-backwards,
forget which alley you’re on?” His smile
blossoms pink and wide—
hibiscus flower on a slender stalk.





The First Day of School in Baltimore
Timendi causa nescire est *

Floodlights flicker on the ceiling, argon armies rend the night,
furtive men in lamplit acts, impassioned
by their damp machines.  No cricket,
nightbird, gentle breeze, the sounds
cascade like breaking glass.

By rosy dawn, bleak and sleepy, I am tracking to the east.
My body follows on its leash.  In three blocks, four,
where houses all are boarded, burned,
I turn into the angled alleys
towards the midnight soundscape.

Lacking ears that twist or cock, I turn my head this way and that,
stop to peek inside the school. There, aligned in shiny rows,
new desks for children of the city.
It smells like hope,
it lets me sleep.


* The cause of fear is ignorance.
attributed to Seneca