Whatever happened to it or them,
these boulevards bear westward towards prairie.
Though the old apartment buildings, pre-war,
pre-everything, seem to have wanted
to proclaim aggressively the idea of city.
Perhaps because so far from downtown,
they’re in amazing shape:
a few floors pancaked, all the cornices
and plaster gargoyle faces strewn
in potholes. But the glass-and-glue
bars and car showrooms
farther up the boulevard
are flattened trash. We decide
where it’s safe to climb and walk. My teams
will soon begin to dig for pipes and wires,
but first I spend (waste) hours seeing what’s left.
It’s strangely hard in all this mess
to tell immediately if they fled,
or died here, and how poor they were,
except that they died poor. Jesus pictures,
drooping televisions … dolls,
sometimes whole villages of dolls.
My assistant quotes a line of Robert Frost:
“Weep for what little things could make them glad.”
The Resettlement man, a reflective type,
wonders if they could be said to have been happy.
The question lingers as crews begin
to attack the walls. Some years later,
a monument provides new focus
for the boulevard. I made sure
the style and lettering are such that one
can’t tell if it was built by us or them:
You who forget our pain are being forgotten.