this morning I wake to jackhammer birdsong

and the smell of burnt rubber and coal

the street near my home narrows, then cracks

into a patchwork of turtlebacked pavement

scales of asphalt layer like skin under

a magnifying glass with

tar-colored scabs where the patches

don’t quite fit

in the summer, birds and mosquitoes

divebomb the water where potholes pucker

in the winter, frost traces the fissures

(split by temperature, and ice)

like ashy skin on an elbow


this month they’re resurfacing

ripping up layers with a huge metal-toothed comb

shredding the surface til it’s

a danger to feet and bike wheels, revealing

what lies beneath: gravel and sand

blackened as soot, a metal grate

brick cobbles, a squashed aluminum can

two more layers of asphalt

this city likes to cover its history up

spackling bullet holes, filling in marshes

taping together broken laws

tearing down burned buildings, concrete masses

leaving only weeds and parking meters along blocks

where homes used to be


this year they’re fixing roads

calling it recovery

but what the city covers still

remains, a scar gone deep beneath

shining new skin

a story silently sleeping, waiting

for the next winter to pass and spring to

melt away pavement like ice


for us to leave

and weeds to spring up, crack

gravel skin and metal bones

spread seeds where we used to

patchwork roads, where we covered the city’s body

with a shroud stitched of smoke.