Sharon Ann Jaeger

Urban Canyon Fugue

("Incomparable America")

What thou lovest well in America, this is it:
hollow, austere, and empty--after the neon shuts off and
the bars close down, when even the Mafia lookout high in a window
lets a coin fall sometimes just to prove the dark has eyes.
No ears but yours for the hoarse low breathing of loose air,
the aimless rasping of newspapers smack up
against your shins. the cacophony of beer cans
clanking like a garbage can some randy dog roots through:
if you trek down too far down Broadway
in the wee weird hours alone,
among the bodies slumped on grates, 
the concrete parallels driving relentlessly into perspective
(that ravenous vortex), towers like a canyon so dead end they ricochet
the desperate echoes of a few birds peeping
for dear life, like humans sending signals out to space
just in case anybody's there:
if you make it to the drugstore past the shadows,
past the traffic signals blinking to the void--
the one at the corner, like Hopper or Estes, but drabber--
where faces flicker in the window like people you knew
once car lights hit the cross-street, but then
the eyes and grins black out, and if when you get there
all mirroring fails, the glass just tenders straight
the brittle signs, the prosthetics, the creams and tubes
of hope and health--take the hint, go back.
Though it won't be to home or to any false belonging,
now you know what the bleak sounds mean,
what you hear in them is your life and it is after you.