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Lost Civilization


Wine festered at the bottom of my skull.
           Wind blew the night's big ideas off the trees.
The moon had frostbite. The stars did, too.

Be kind to animals was mother's mantra.
           Do your duty was father's.
Their ghosts breathed on my rear-view mirror.

I parked by a locked bank.
           An SPCA volunteer guided me across ice
to a llama starved by a bankrupt farmer.

Dogs lined up behind the topless Cadillac
           of the Christmas queen, polar bears
crooning Elvis hits on a plywood iceberg.

A police car uncoiled red razor wire
           from a siren. Shriners
traced signs for infinity in dwarf Corvettes.

I shivered among Cub Scouts
           staggering into wind like Arctic explorers,
lips blue as their uniforms.

We marched beneath a pink cloud on a spacewalk
           past Main Street's plastic Santas
to a big tent by Saint Francis Church.

Warming my hands around cups
           of mulled cider, I listened to Youths
for Christ argue about beasts in the Apocalypse.

After the first snow, the floats huddled
           in the parking lot
like a city buried beneath desert sand.


Henry Hart

Familiar Ghosts
Orchises Press


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