The City

After the rain, the alley smelled of wet screen door,
the city-stink of piled up garbage and exhaust
washed nearly clean. She noticed this only in spring.
By summer the rain when it came
bucketing down made thick mud of the foulness.
The city dug in its heels, spread its muck like
her memory of a garden’s red clay.
Next year at this time we’ll be long gone,
her father would always say. She’d watch his words
dry out and harden, crumble to dust, and away.
Does he remember last year and the years before,
the same parched yearning? Yet her mother only
nodded. Next year we’ll be home for sure,
she’d answer, patting his oil-lined hands.

Pauletta Hansel is the author of six poetry collections, including Palindrome (Dos Madres Press, 2017), written in response to her mother’s dementia. Hansel is Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate (2016-2018) and is co-editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative.

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