Today's poem is by Nicole Stellon O'Donnell

River Town

The men who became street names
meet in a saloon in the afterlife.

They raise glasses, clink. Whiskey spills over the lip
and onto their dirty fingers. They smile

and nod, bob their heads in the only agreement
they've ever all shared:

it's a pleasure to see the roads they cut
through stands of willow paved.

Whether they're in heaven, surrounded by dance hall girls,
straps falling over shoulders,

or they're in hell, sweating in starched paper collars,
bones aching with regret, they're still with us,

perched on poles, peeking out between
the loops and columns of the letters on their names.

The two brothers-in-law who intersect
at the library and the Korean restaurant

watch a man jaywalk, wondering if he ever sold out a partner,
or brought a bank to ruins.

The bank president looks down from his corner
onto run-down apartments.

On Saturday nights, cruiser lights reflect off him,
as men in handcuffs shuffle through the winter's first snow.

The rent collector snakes from First to Third, disappearing
before Fifth. On that street, everyone locks their doors.

When a boy jumps his bike over a curb, and looks up,
he thinks he hears faint applause.

And the woman signaling left on Isabelle feels an inescapable
longing as the tick of the turn signal counts out

her heartbeats, as if she had to sneak out of town
in the middle of winter in a sled, hands clasped in a wolf fur muff.

All of them wish they could climb back down, muddy
their feet on the riverbank, but the afterlife, if anything,

is green and reflective, and perfectly still,
unlike the river, which so long after they bottomed out,

is still going the same brown direction.

Copyright © 2013 Nicole Stellon O'Donnell All rights reserved
from Steam Laundry
Boreal Books
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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