Spotlight: A Week in the Back Bay

We wandered your city

for five days, hemmed within

those same cobbled creases,

tucked between brownstones-

mordant lines grown soft

in the damp October night.


As the slow, sibilant traffic

parted for us with lumbering grace,

we streamed through the darkness,

faces pearlescent, strung together

in shadow, flowing into

patient, silent homes,

or hidden cafes carved

into sheer cliff sides.


Children of green steel trestles

and granite curbing, unwearied-

my vision fails before the end

of your wharves and spires

that stretch beyond

the sharpened fume of idling taxis,

and bleared lights

that sting the wet asphalt.


What is it you see among

these crumbling abutments

and slabs of crooked concrete

shelved against the silhouettes

of trees that drip and quiver against

the chain-links and brick?

What words form for you

in this dim language,

dissolved and dank beneath

these watery lights pooling?


Ammonia is a wrinkled sting,

a reedy fist of bees

that prickles kitchen counters

like a morning sun’s

rasping, saffron luster.


And the snap and tang

of bleach that fries olfaction

will gouge and grate-

a flaming tabletop glaze

that sizzles in its livid puddles.


But the lye that hisses

in malignant whispers

from the can of oven cleaner

shears the sheen from porcelain,

scours blenching lungs,


diffuses through these rooms

as if to blear, dissolve,

all dross and flaws

within this house,

like the breath of a fastidious god.

Timbre to Color

Today I have at last perfectly matched ‘v’ with “Rose Quartz” in Maerz and Paul’s Dictionary of Color.

— Vladimir Nabokov


“Azure” leaves the mouth thrumming on the tongue

like a tooth-trapped hummingbird-

the iridescence of a fly rattling in a web.


The acrid chartreuse scent of tansy belies

its yolky glow, while the strokes

and curls of its name evoke

the taut, smoky skin of an aubergine.


A matchstick flaring has a fine-grained,

saffron edge that abrades against stillness,

then abates to a lambent sigh.


And the mottled sky is steadied

by the weight of these wave-tossed cobbles,

heeled into a sea as smooth as a herring gull bone,

bleached and salt wind-burnished.

Kevin CaseyKevin Casey has contributed poems to recent editions of Grasslimb, Frostwriting, Words Dance, Turtle Island Review, decomP, and other publications.  A graduate of UMass, Amherst, and the University of Connecticut, his new chapbook “The wind considers everything-” (Flutter Press) will appear this spring.  He currently teaches literature at a small university in Maine, where he enjoys fishing, snowshoeing, and hiking.