Fifteen years ago, a boy was beaten

to death in the alley behind my garage.

Last week, a man was shot and killed

a few blocks away. Homes have burned

at both ends of the street. One faulty wiring,

one meth lab. We grow Oregon Grape

six feet high around the perimeter of the yard.

Across the street, condos and townhomes,

men working at 7 a.m., new streets

formed on top of old. The decay of fall leaves

means fertile soil by spring. Down the road,

a house is empty, the cats the man kept

freeze, as winter settles pale as milk.

Walking the alleys is a tunnel of barking dogs,

black labs and pit bull mixes. We keep so much

inside, yards and homes in yellow light.

Stripped-bare shrubs jeweled in ice,

and at last, the work has stopped.

Silence comes with the snow, and down

the steep bank, the river burns on and on.


published in The Spokeman Review, Oct. 23, 2013.