Here come seven-year-old toughs
with chunks of condemned buildings
carried in front of their faces.
And the company fleeces hang
in the indoor driving range break room
with feverish openness.
The course pro comments mildly
on the male torso, its pallor and grace.
And the vice-chair at the boardroom table
is scraping a laxative in his lap
to the size of an aspirin.
The scent of it comes with time,
he thinks. It comes with time
from clenching the pill in your fist
while out late dancing.
And his lover waits in his penthouse
using her pink can of pepper spray
to strike the keys of a xylophone
into his voicemail to let him know
she’s in the city. I leave the meeting early.
Truant children on the staircase
crop a photo of me till they have my face.
In the lounge next door
they’re revising the phrase ‘good times,’
so I go in and get the print version
slid to me under my placemat,
then leave with the restaurateur
to pack our things. It’s been a long trip,
a long year, a long downturn toward here.
Behind our backs, the waiters begin
the slideshow––a catalogue
of our blighted mansions––
and all of the patrons’ heads
hunch forward into their ledgers
with baby blue lanyards dangling
from their necks, which read: Cities of Concern.
And the willow trees are praying for us.
And they shame us with their reverence
and cool discretion. Poison is poison!
a nurse-in-training scolds a child
on the curb in front of us.
Don’t let me catch you in the cabinet again!
In the small entryway to the hospital,
their godhead is leaning peacefully.
At its feet someone’s half-sister places
a handful of Swedish Fish, wet with her saliva.
I begin my new organization here.
Peter Mishler was educated at Emerson College and Syracuse University. He is employed as a public school Creative Writing teacher. He has been working on text and image installations in the city of Syracuse with the photographer Joe Lingeman. Other new poems are forthcoming in the 2013 Best New Poets anthology and The Literary Review online.