THE EVOLVING CITY

Kathleen O'Toole

 

DEMOLITION IN A TIME OF PENITENCE

“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the chords of the yoke..?”
– Ash Wednesday, Isaiah 58: 6

For weeks the demolition experts have been at work -
picking clean the carcasses of four public housing high-rises.
They’ve stripped away the remains of family dwellings

right before our eyes: grease stains on mauve paint
and mad-flowered wallpaper, then the walls, wiring and pipes -
all the metal veins that pumped and plumbed lives.

For a moment our skeletons are out of the closet,
the underbelly of public will exposed. Some spring
Saturday, crowds will gather as if for fireworks

or a hanging. They’ll applaud the timed sequence
of rubble-rending blasts. Yet, in that explosion memory
fragments will charge the air: salt taste of summer nights,

a mother’s eyelids closing for the last time, the footsteps
of the late-for-dinner child, a fist print on the door.
Left dangling in the silence after: questions, unanswered.

 

 

Kathleen O’Toole has combined a nearly thirty-year professional life in community organizing with teaching and writing. She received her Masters Degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1991, and has taught writing at Johns Hopkins University and at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her poems have appeared in America, Maryland Poetry Review, Poetry, and The Texas Review. She currently works for Bread for the World in Washington, DC and lives in Takoma Park, MD with her husband John Ruthrauff.

credits

 

Published in Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 2007.

 

To read more by this author:
Kathleen O'Toole: The Whitman Issue
Kathleen O'Toole: DC Places Issue