Fog wraps the city in its own grudge,
drags east to dampen the suburbs.
Late-noon light, a darkened soul against
the steady lick of traffic over August asphalt.
Now the fog drops, like a wet handkerchief,
then lifts, like a gray bird, and stretches
What if, for example, we could stretch
our appearance and convince others
that we are not what we used to be?
Let’s say like a bud that has opened,
or a scatter of dust that lifts
from the ground, crosses the wind,
and dips into a puddle. Dissolves.
If appearance is the required shine
that we buff out in the morning, then
it is also the heavy grime that we drag
behind us at day’s end, stepping out
of the commute line, like a fake coin
ejected from a slot machine.
Now the air is soaked in muscle-bound
moisture, as if a sponge left behind
at a water hole, and the appearance of the day
has so severely shifted that a trail of wind
is a wet shirt flapping on a line and snapping
my face. This day’s hopes have fallen
so far behind that I can see it in the aching
facial lines of staggering office workers.
I see it in the tight stitch of cars jammed
at the tollgate. I see it through the train’s
windows, the cattle cars of suburbia, whose
appearance forms an icy, metallic smear,
the riders, frozen shoulder to shoulder, harassed
by the flickering strike of fluorescent venom.
Even the city’s appearance has changed
by the liquid pewter the fog has poured
over it: appearance then may be an overly
explosive flash in a whitewashed photograph
that’s as useless as a sun without light.
Now the fog is something of a wet blizzard
with the sun’s electric lines crackling
somewhere behind it. Summer’s appearance
vacated by a misted, white chill.
Copyright © Dah Helmer 2015
Dah’s poetry has appeared in many publications internationally.
The author of two collections of poetry from Stillpoint Books, his third collection is due for publication in 2014, also from Stillpoint. Dah lives in Berkeley, California, where he is currently working on the manuscript for his fourth book.