Motown Layover

by E. Russell Smith
The Write Idea
First Place, April 2011
Judged by Judith Fitzgerald


Three time zones east of yesterday,
still I rise early. A pale moon fails.
I find a coffee, walk the vacant streets.
The horizon of an ailing city
rises out of ashes, dark against
a glowing sky of blood and roses.

A carrion crow relieves the owl of
its night watch of my wakeful hours.
High-spirited Sunday sparrows,
starlings, larks and winter finches
forage in the gutters; no other life.

This cruel cold may cauterize
two years of weeping lesions.
I fly before the dirty weather strikes.


Moving, deeply disconcerting, gorgeously clean in its poetic "devices," "Motown Layover" simply causes time to stand still for one glorious nano-second, that space before the onslaught of dirty weather's cloudstorms gathering at the edge of the other's consciousness. Rarely do readers fail to cringe when reaching the end of the line only to discover the poet damned-near destroys credibility when concluding same a preposition with (apologies, Mr. Safire). This poem, however, turns that proposition on its head, expanding, contracting, the quietly calculous crunch realised in the final word, "strikes," the one which brings readers back to the beginning, to the stunning opening line, "Three time zones east of yesterday." Strike a cloud? Wonderful. --Judith Fitzgerald

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