Drunk, we wound our way up the wind-bent
stilts that rose from the old Marathon Building,
abandoned in the days long after our father’s
fathers milled cotton and women bobbed
each step skyward reporting
in the hollow iron we ascended. From there
the world swayed with the wind and
our tinny echo,
our legs hung out over the lip of the city, scissor-
kicking at the night. From there we could
that city in our hands. Big rigs and V-6s swung by
on the s-curves of I-40. A pair of spotlights
probed figure-eights in the clouds over downtown
and the projects played their somber tunes
of rebuilt Chevy
Novas and catcalls and bass.
When I return home, I pass that water tower.
During the day, it stands. Yielding.
At night though, I’ve seen kids climb
that long cold corridor to the celestial, the red
glow of cherries passed back and forth
like a pair of taillights winding their way west
down a late mountain
road— pulsing, breaking,
another sharp turn on that half-moon landing—
those above having risen with
over the rooftops and steeples, the switchbacks
of the Cumberland no longer obscured
and fog, the dim illuminations
of billboards no longer hovering overhead
like messages from the future.
More than once
I’ve thought of returning to that high vantage
point, stood at its base and planned my climb,
daylight not yet flickered out like a bulb, the stars
waiting to tend their signal fires. But I always
away and return the way I’ve come.
I already know how darkness folds over us,
the fear that comes with hard
by rain. I already know that city, pressed
like an ember in the amber of its own light
and so certain of its being.