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This is the city without us:
noise
and bustle ablated, advent of a wary
stillness, a quiet disturbed only
by migrations of blown leaves, their metallic
scrape and clatter; by emboldened vermin,
wrangling damp boluses of shredded paper.

Evacuated spaces are colonized
by the wind’s auditions: its skirls and moans,
crescendos, pandemoniums. Motion
has been abstracted; vehicles collapse
into penumbras of rust. Asphalted streets
are straight-edged rivers lined on either bank
with bluffs perfectly rectilinear,—
mesas patched with glass, reflecting glassy
others, only that, or only sky’s empty blur.

This the city of as-if: drowned under
its harbor, sunk in fathoms of silence.
Passed into the liminal: wrecks, shrouded hulks,
passengers and crews missing, shifted
away untraceable in the silty murk,
in light’s gray exhaustion.
                 Aqualunged, you
trudge the archipelago streets, the kraken
gardens. Empty trains arrive, whoosh open,
invisibles debouche (ridership has
declined to zero). Hallucination
of absent voices, the scrape of shoe-leather
on concrete. From the eyes’ corners movement
flickers, threads and floaters. A gesture caught
in window glass, but there’s really nothing
there; an optic nerve’s mischance, a lightning
strike in blind eyes, red tracers through a black maze.

Light is the shudder of a candle flame
in the breath of a night chapel. Empty
are all the fair fields of folk; and you grope
down cloacal halls in self-service motels,
a key trembling in your hand. But the light
is rationed. A timer clicks and darkness
falls, and is a long black tunnel, is a gust
of wind from somewhere other, an entrance
to an under-land you must enter through cracks
in the lino, through gaps in the untrued
lintel, burrowing down to where your quest
begins;
there, at the bottom of a stair.


Robert McCarthy is a writer living in New York City. He prefers to use formal means to achieve lyric ends. Robert has published poetry in The Alchemy Spoon and Dreich Magazine. His work has also appeared in Yours, Poetically and Neologism Poetry Journal; as well as in Words & Whispers, Celestite Poetry, Fahmidan Journal, Version (9), Madrigal, Ice Floe Press, PaddlerPress, Nymphs, The Storms, and others.

© 2022, Robert McCarthy

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