If you were a town like a belly button ring, stapled into the midriff
of the country, would you style yourself
Fort? I’m walking in Fort
Wayne (“great place to raise kids”), just in from O’Hare, no snow
on the ground, whose gate agents giggled on a February Wednesday,
black ash blooms upbraiding the late winter pallor of midwestern foreheads.
Fort! Fort! Repentance! Property! Always the German business, out here.
I’m cruising past lawnless mansions’ porch-stigmata: cheap mailbox clusters,
rust-barbecues. That mutton-chop whisker affect of turreted brick
cobbled into awkward apartments. Fort! Fort! (In German: Gone! Gone!)
Dark nurses smoke heroically outside the hospital service entrance.
A temple of betterment ringed by parking lots, the state school has taken
for its totem frisky Don the Mastodon. O outskirts nonsensically
allergic to sidewalks! O office caves whose walls salute the eyes of Sufi saints!
O students of Consumer and Family Sciences! Surrealists spade the soil
of posttraumatic poetry; ex–nuclear safety engineers embed
in Rhetoric and Composition Studies.
And all of it’s the story of my life.
Between river-wreck and dire motorway, a pioneering hovel squats,
prescriptively preserved. I think it’s shaped like imagination’s coffin.
At dinner, we recall fifties Shriners, grinning white guys in fezzes.
Old Deutsch-taint Chicago, scourged and sundered
after the famous fire. A chatty waitress worries about the soup.
“Why only serve beef barley, chicken noodle? It’s Lent, after all.” Lonely,
but she doesn’t like to think. “I won’t watch the news. They only show the bad
stuff. You know what I’d rather look at on TV? America’s Favorite Comedy Videos.”
Always the German business. Faithful-awful. Chipper-drear.
My country. Its meat declensions. Concourse pieties.
Troops. Jesus. Jobs. Fucking. Wasted. God. Bless.
Fort! Fort! Flinging it all away Rustbelting out a song
A mighty fortress is petroleum.
I’m walking where the nothing
is something of mine (I almost said the belly of the beast)
(more like the belly of the bride refined to uterine prolapse vistas)
under a sky like gristle on the pot roasts of childhood