How to Make South Grand a Ghost Town

1.

On this night, the canister

landed between our feet,

sprouting a bulbous, billowing white heaven,

 

empty of harps & mercy,

void of any God & uninterested

in finding one.

 

There is a flash of light,

a sudden moment when

the whole world is swallowed

 

in a bright clap & bang,

& then—is remade piece

by piece in the moonlight.

 

I’m running & the ground

appears again, the bits of grass

sprouting like small, fractured

 

Edens between the pavement,

the handful of cars my waist swivels past—

& the night is not over.


The whole world,

yes, the whole

world is here.

 

2.

The fourth time it happened, I discovered

the body cowers involuntarily, will give up

its senses in exchange for relief

& despite the blinding burn,

will wholly survive.

 

It is a horribly bearable ruin—

the tinny sour of tear gas,

both hand-less & choking,

dares your body to escape itself

& empty the skeleton of all its parts

 

& rid your flesh of mist, this smoke

that brandishes nothing but stinging cloud

& still lacerates your chest,

spasms your lungs into hard fury

til the cough & the cough & cough

 

& the cough breath the cough & breath

cough cough turns to gag & gag.

Even your kidney shudders with force.

You think your whole gut has uprooted

& will leave you tonight.

 

& all of this while blinded. All of this

in a noisy darkness that is clamor

& crying & a chorus of throats

all sucking acid until they

find clean air.

 

You forgot your burning sockets

while your chest ruptured open;

you forgot your chest with all the desperate

gagging; you forgot the gagging while

your eyes drowned themselves

 

until the acid drowned, too—streamed

 

down your cheeks & softened, cooled your lungs,

 

metronomed your breathing & released

 

your eyelids, your fists, the whole night sky,

 

so big & finally visible again.


Jacqui Germain is a St. Louis-based poet and freelance writer who believes deeply in denim and pointy fingernails. She currently serves as 2019 Artist Fellow with the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, and poetry editor and contributing writer for several St. Louis publications. Germain is author of When the Ghosts Come Ashore (2016), and has received additional fellowships from Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, the Poetry Foundation’s Emerging Poet’s Incubator, and Jack Jones Literary Arts.