For J.G. Ballard

The maps show
where arteries did commerce,
the streets stents that could not
stave off destruction.

The cities in the jungle
lost communication first,
as vines and orange monkeys
climbed the towers,
assaulted the wires,
and crudely-colored songbirds,
squawking,
flew away with black plastic nodes.

The cities in the desert next,
as windblown sand cut
through flesh and sheetmetal.
Everything died in sparks. Our blood
bled dry and shone tawny gold.

The cities in the high plains
told us they watched clouds
as purple as a fresh bruise,
as wild as a bronco, until
the power put them running
on batteries. Then the batteries
left each city on her own.

The cities on the rivers, floodplain
cites, refused to see their waters
retreat, drying the gulfs until crabs
scuttled dry and counterclockwise
as cockroaches.

We feed our own thin ghosts.

From their high domes, the lieutenants
and colonels and navy commanders
of Mars observed–and scattered blame
in their KTVs, scenic spots, officers’s clubs,
over wine from hothouse vineyards
–warmed by the palest moons–
served up by robots in aprons,
programmed to curtsey.

This is an original publication.

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Reid Mitchell, a New Orleanian, now teaches in China. His poems have appeared in various journals including Cha, Asia Literary Review, Pedestal, and In Posse. Reid’s “You Don’t Get One Thing Without The Other”“Sea Shells” and “Midnight Morning” are also in Reprint.

Object(s) to bring back to life: “When I was about ten, cheap walkie-talkies became popular among boys slightly older than me.  They only broadcast about two blocks but guys like Mike Robinson, whom I haven’t seen in almost fifty years, roamed through the neighborhood talking to each other.  It was all vaguely military, the same way we played with plastic submachine guns and refought World War II.  You couldn’t dial these walkie-talkies.  They were open lines.  The big guys had them and they all talked to each other.  I never had one.  I never saw a girl with one either.  Not to have one made you powerless.  I can see myself in this poem trying to talk to others in a dying neighorhood, with the walkie-talkies I somehow never deserved.”

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