Today's poem is by Mary Jo Salter

Cities in the Sky
        in memory of James Rossant

The buildings you drew were stooped
a little like you, lanky and tall and shambling
in your cloud-colored sweater, smiling vaguely
but curiously through your chic, black-rimmed,
perfectly round glasses.

Good morning. Yes thanks, coffee.
Show me your latest cities.
Or in any case, cities I can't keep straight.
They hunch and huddle in my head—
the toy building-block houses,
blank-faced and pink and red,
that fall willingly from some cliff you invented

but do not fall; they stall.
They stay there, falling; even you don't know why.
We drink more coffee in Claverack,
New York, on a day of arctic cold
and I inspect another high
cloud packed like an attic

with a city, clover-leafed with ramps
of cheerful, commuting cars, wherever
cars commute to up there,
a cloud that hovers like the dream
of the cows below,
unaware they're dreaming:
they're realists in their watercolor,

browsing, heads down, on a meadow
Of saturated green.

Another cloud, jammed with people, is shaped
exactly like a map
of the continental United States.
"That's interesting," you say. "I didn't see that."

Thought-clouds, that's what these are, as in
cartoons of characters thinking.
No words for what you're thinking, though,
just blueprints, unfeasibility studies, for cities
no one has time to build—

pulleys and sluices, ladders and cranes and pipelines
to nowhere. Bridges to caves. Nowhere
somewhere changing to something.
Knife-edged but bulging vehicles, cut
as from a tray of strudel.
A city sliced across the cranium,
its brains exposed like a motherboard.

Blockhead figures, only their bodies sinuous,
twisting like wind-whipped banners.
A robot stepping right through the plaster
walls of a townhouse,
leaving his empty shape behind
like a crumbling shadow.

Oh, here's your wife of fifty-plus years,
the adorable Colette.
She has brought us farm eggs, juice, and toast.
Stay for a bit; your houseguest

has more to ask.
Is this what you think the afterworld is,
cities of real and unreal things
cohabiting in the sky?

That was only a question. I meant it idly.
Wake up, Jim, don't die.
It's only eight in the morning.

Copyright © 2014 Mary Jo Salter All rights reserved
from Lost Originals
Literary House Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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