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Town, Gone

He touched the back of his neck,

forked his fingers through red hair,

and the trees breathed their dioxide in the street,

and the gulls waved their cuts in the air,

placed themselves, and I asked if this

was what he meant, the static,

and he nodded, and I looked down

at my hands touching themselves

touching the only skin they'll own,

and he moved to touch my hair,

hair grown pale in the winter, silver

like the iced trees in half-light

and I asked what could be done, what

could break or trouble the form

our lives had taken and he said

he didn't know, but I knew

that this was how it would be

and the town in my head

where my inventions moved

in their elaborate machines, their dramas

and re-enactments, their closing doors

and sweeping, their papers

rifled through and tested for accuracy,

that town began to empty

until the room was full of that population,

and they were of me and I

was of them, and they

broke into pieces, a windshield

gone through, and they left

in fragments through the window

I cracked to let out the smoke,

left me looking down at my hands

and I knew I'd never hear them again

and that they were the smoke

and—town gone, vast catastrophe—

I was what they left behind in the fire.

—Mark Wunderlich

Mark Wunderlich is visiting professor of poetry at Ohio University and author of The Anchorage,
which received the 1999 Lambda Literary Award.

Originally published in the February/March 2002 issue of Boston Review

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