Steve Brisendine


                                                                    So dawn goes down to day
-Robert Frost

South of I-70, east of Downtown – more or less just off
the Brooklyn Avenue exit – the slide rises, seven hundred 
            feet of girdered steel and me at the top of it;

this, not engineering, is the miracle of the thing. I shun
            unwalled-in heights, sleeping or waking.

The slide runs away southward: a sharp drop, a brief leveling
at the middle, another drop, a long landing stretch.
The end is miles away, somewhere around 39th Street, 
            if my shift-prone inner map can be trusted.

Predawn gray above, concrete gray below: low block structures
to the east, to the horizon, maybe all the way to the city’s end.
These are houses, the houses of the dead.
            All streets are empty; this seems somehow permanent.
            I do not look straight down, nor to the west.
            I am afraid to look behind me.

And now I see myself from the west, from a high slideless tower,
            and wonder at our shared bravery.

And now I am on the slide again, sitting, hands clutching the sides.
I do not turn to observe my second self, as he watches/I watch me 
or perhaps myself. He is/I am to the west, and 
            we do not look straight down, nor to the west.
            We are afraid to look behind us.

I (by which I mean the aspect of myself on the slide) have been 
sitting here for hours, unmoving, waiting for the sun to come up.
It does not always rise; sometimes weeks pass in this half-light.
The slide creaks; this and my murmured prayers are the only sounds.

This is the only one of me left, the one who sits and waits. I know
            this without looking. Now I am sole, alone in the city.

The sun rises, gray and desolate. I can see the city’s edge and 
just beyond it, the shape of the sky over the border of the world. 

I lean forward, forward, and metal screams in the morning wind.
            Below, without sound, the houses begin to crumble.

Steve Brisendine, a recovering journalist who still wrangles words for a living, lives and works in Mission, KS. His most recent books are Salt Holds No Secret But This (2022, Spartan Press) and To Dance with Cassiopeia and Die (2022, Alien Buddha Press), a “collaboration” with his former pen name, Stephen Clay Dearborn. His first collection, The Words We Do Not Have (2021, Spartan Press) has been nominated for the Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award.