Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Last Night's Return to the Past

"facades ripped open, concrete and re-bar exposed"

Published onAug 07, 2023
Last Night's Return to the Past

Photo by Daria Sivovalova:

Thank God there was a lock—
though the furnishings were mildewed,
broken, whatever else happens when homes
stand empty.  Squatters had come looting,
leaving behind remnants of their own
blotched, stained lives. 

Still, it was a place to stay—rough
but still shelter amid the maze
of empty apartment buildings: facades
ripped open, concrete and re-bar exposed,
the fanged fragments of shattered glass
lining windows. 

I had moved on, had buried my own participation
in the conflict.  But even without my knowing,
apparently the damage had continued.
And imagine!  Before this trip, I’d thought
of those days mostly with longing and nostalgia. 

As a guest, here for some unspecified event,
I couldn’t reject what passed for hospitality, even
in the middle of this squalor where the matronly women,
protective of their fiefdoms, wanted me gone.
None of my charms worked.  No matter,
I was there by invitation.  Tomorrow
I’d be leaving. 

Then we were on our way for drinks with three men
none of us knew.  Downtown had been restored
into a strip of tacky souvenir shops flanking
a neon-lit casino.  We picked our way
through an alley of refuse into a club.
The piano man, retro-dandy in powder-blue jacket,
coaxed soft jazz from a battered baby grand. 

I considered the man next to me.  The sun-glazed
hair on his bare arms glistened. The vision
of what I had to return to—that devastation—
how could I face it alone? 

The music continued playing.  Our drinks arrived.
Couples shuffled onto the dance floor.  His eyes
asked a question.  Was this basic human
comfort all I could expect?  Was this
my future?  It wasn’t much—
but maybe enough?

Chris Dahl hopes to cup a handful of murky pond-water  and reveal another world half-hidden in this one.  Her chapbook, Mrs. Dahl in the Season of Cub Scouts, was published after winning Still Waters Press “Women’s Words” competition.  Her poems have been placed in a wide variety of journals—most recently in Bennington Review and Whitefish Review—and she has had poems nominated both for Best of the Internet and a Pushcart Prize.  She lives in Olympia, Washington where she serves on the board of the Olympia Poetry Network and edits their newsletter. 

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?