Aurora, IL, was the first city in the United States to
use electricity for publicly lighting the entire City,
and became known as the "City of Lights."
Thirty years from my last glance past
these intersected lights,
street still wraps a library (white slabbed,
black-slit windows) then crosses
a river laced with silt and metal-
An overpass buckles as it lifts a railroad:
street rolls east, then slows on a hill
where light stutters, hums, comes on
over women who once posed
in strident-tight polyester. Beneath the bridge
galled acid-green, from slant-lit water
they resurface one by one: faceless man-
nequins in gaudy halters, bared legs.
On a corner, a closed parasol edged with lemon
ruffle twirls, changes hands, twirls again.
Voices, unfaced: an uncle home
from the war, my aunt running just ahead
of the sun, toward a streetcar that takes
her to a linens counter downtown.
Blue-leaved trees tunnel over the street-
car as it passes the yard where I will live, new-
planted with apple, peonies, roses, crocuses.
In houses next door, Florence and Agnes are still
middle-aged, Mrs. Richards not yet a widow.
At dusk, my grandfather's half-filled beer glass
shivers as my aunt slams the screen, flushed,
her gloves forgotten on the trolley seat, again.
A chain lifts, link after link, past a window
falling through water in first,
curtained light: October blue fills
the shape of a wooden yellow bird
perched on a closet door. Hours stay empty
and open: think of an aster's green
brittle fist loosening. Small losses
the size of a cedar chest (a room, a house)
drift seaward, coral
beads sewn on a finger seam, the torn
hem of a dress where a tucked letter ends
asking, asking ...and how are you?
Virginia Smith's poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Denver Quarterly, The Jet Fuel Review, Lily Review, Moria, Southern Poetry Review, and Weave. She is the Assistant Poetry Editor at Triquarterly Online.