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City Limits (excerpt)

James Grabill

I. The City Sleeps and Wakes


The modern city unregulated

in a state of overflow hires

a variegated staff before it sets sail

on a black Steinway with the sheen

of a spinner dolphin taking aim

for where the sun goes sinking dusk

fast into the ocean of microorganisms,

for the city if it were a person revels

in looming amounts of raw conflict

and joy if for no other purpose

than to see it’s survived in presence

long enough to recover from work,

then fall asleep in the arms of water

one bird to the next, one last or first

cigarette flicked into a cereal bowl

before a beriddled city in climax slips

off its handle in heavy floods, in solar

spotlight which overtakes crossings

where multiple leaves have been

harvesting more light for food before

it’s awake, the city, needing more

volumes of sleep before swimming

its tropics, undertaking liquid moves,

speaking as if the museum’s trying

to show it’s good for species to grow,

to dream in feather beds, blue heron

cane chairs, in blue jay doorways

when the body’s leading everywhere

the day takes it into timelessness.


(pp. 65-68, The Hong Kong Review, Vol. III, No. 3)

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