Joe Barnes

The window is gone, the store behind it gutted,
but a sign still swings to the traffic’s pulse.
“Est. 1987” it reads simply but in endearing pride,
a date that might be yesterday in European cities
or even in their Boston-New York-Philly brethren,
but here evokes a time so remote it conjures up
the horse and buggy. A barbershop? A bakery?  
I probably drove past the place a thousand times
and never knew. I won’t know now.

Already the bulldozers assemble to raze
whatever it was and squads of hardhats
rendezvous to raise whatever will be next:
A vertiginous alp of condos, its cliffs inlaid
with lozenges of soft, expensive light?
Or a neo-classical mall of cast-concrete plinths
and caryatids slipped from silicon molds?   
Someplace, surely, where I won’t be rich
enough to shop or rent or, God help me, even park.    

There is a species of immortality
among the block-long excavations and towers rising,
exultant, behind their filigree of scaffold,
where today never lingers long enough to form a proper past.

What the aging world calls history—those strata
of brick and stone that bear the human weight
of earned lives and livelihoods—here is merely rubble
to be trucked away. Only we grow old.

Poems used with permission of the authors, and may not be re-used without their permission.