Issue 31: Steve Noyes
Among the shapes come down
from the modern medieval period
is the stylized and elongated hypotenuse
of the Roofline Corporation’s logo,
its ascension at every Springfield crossroad.
Statistics is the description of abscissae.
The Moms and Pops up and closed shop
rather than confront the Roofline juggernaut,
retired to air-con and powdered ice-tea,
their youngsters starting to climb Mount Credit.
At first, a furious burgeoning, as trucks brought
all that was desired, eighteen- after eighteen-wheeler;
under the friendly Roofline Earth’s coded fungibles
came from factories on jungle fringes, from docks blue
with the effusions of two-stroke motors.
Aisles of the riveted, the crimped and heat-sealed,
and Springfielders kachinged their barbecues
and fish-tank-sized TVs, until this zenith’s
tip towards investor pessimism, layoffs,
until there were only a few jobs left,
poorly paid. Remaining Roofline staff
dealt with a narrower community,
until glass smashed under the abscissa,
and We the People carted off the cases of KD,
the cappuccino-makers—strong demand curve—
and Roofline came to echo in the rust-in-snow
of swing-sets and handsaws that came to clutter
Springfield’s garages and backyards;
in the apron with the boom and doom roofline,
folded for years in a drawer, after the math
moved on to newer markets, in the pioneering way.
The bell dings, he looks up
from the hissing flame, not
quite making out the customers.
He tweezes the thin metal straw
channeling his breath
from his lungs’ elastic stream
into the reddened vesicles
of a cardinal’s wing, which will
in time join the other glass birds
tinkling from the wire bonsai.
He pushes up his visor
automatically to croak
Howdy, y’all come in.
The molten cardinal
cools down some.
This is Main Street America!
Immediately one sees his store
has absorbed all the others
in this empty town of padlocked
doors, taped-up foreclosures.
Bins of dated books on macramé,
woodburning, burls, appliqué kits
from when folks knew how to craft.
In the back, he’s got the taffeta,
organdy and fake-silk gowns—
hand-me-downs for the grad girls,
county-wide and farther round.
He once knew the other shopkeepers
in town and hell, he helped them
all he could, then bought them out.
It ain’t his fault he is a permanent
curio at the county auctions
with his string tie hanging
from his Adam’s apple.
The customers browse and leave.
At the flame’s hiss, the glass
cardinal distends in pipettes
of crimson drool. The day passes
with Mister Main Street America,
with this most difficult, crested bird.
Steve Noyes has published nine books of fiction and poetry, with a chapbook of a long poem, The Conveyor, just out this year from Alfred Gustav Press. Noyes holds a doctorate in the Contemporary Novel from the University of Kent. Recent poems have appeared in The Malahat Review, Queen's Quarterly, Acumen, Stand, The Ekphrastic Review, Critical Muslim, and The Literary Review of Canada. Noyes is from Winnipeg and lives in Sheffield.
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