for getting nothing in return
Plumes of smoke pool together above the foundry,
as I chase the scent of regret, heavy-familiar
in my lungs, like a still-fresh fog hedging bets
against clearing. But let’s go back a bit.
Yesterday, the lights outside the foundry
were alive with blank passion, and it was late.
A stray cat sang something tragic
in the snow-dumped alley that made
me think optimistically about change.
The wind carried across the street
thick, white smoke built of snow,
and the word harrowing constructed
itself at the curb. So we said it aloud
like a spell and the smoke almost
completely cleared. Farther down
the road, we found a map of the city
stapled excessively to a large tree
that we swore held the secret meaning
of life—(leaves)—in its gnarled skin.
The map, too, held heavy secrets,
and when we arrived at the corner market
hours later, we tried to piece together
the missing hours, those melted away
so mysteriously in snowy forests.
But the shortcut worked, and it was time
to return. In a cloud of cigarette smoke,
we lost focus, stooped into futuristic cities
where the smoke was good and rare.
We reached the occasional apex coolly
and listened as the stray cats grew in number
and formed a vile chorus of heavy brooding
that we almost called symphonic.
And we went about our grand return honestly
and earnestly, but when we saw the foundry’s
smoke rising dumbly over snowy hills,
when we declared ourselves almost home,
I checked my pockets fervently
to find nothing of note, nothing permanent.
Ryan Meyer received an MFA in poetry from George Mason University and currently teaches at Northern Virginia Community College. His work appears in The Georgia Review and Off the Coast.