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Consider Utopia



its yogurt parlors, its shops 

and plazas and well-ordered traffic,

its people: figures from builders’ models, 

all bent toward some silent virtue.

Real cities are raucous, loud,

foul, and sweet. I recall my mother’s

laughter, the indirection of her speech,

the way she stood in the back door,

the way, when she called me 

from childhood alleys with their asphalt 

cracking and drains sinking, her voice 

hung until it became almost visible

above the clamor of our games.


Now, towns have turned to chain-link.

City planners promise no vines

overtaking rotten fences, no mattresses 

spilling open for rats and squirrels.

Partitioned, alleys no longer serve

as conduit for children and cats.

The day my first bike failed 

the gauntlet of potholes, my face 

met with macadam and I was

unmoved by the word’s French 

roots. Alleys have served 

the cruel–a cry rising from behind 

a dumpster–and also saved souls 

desperate to wretch in dark corners. 


When a friend and I fled 

the televised despair of 1963, 

we crept through back gates

and dribbled with numb hands.

Arcing shots caromed from his rim 

and the garage eave. Our future might 

have worried us if we’d been wiser. 

When we’re shattered, alleys 

beckon, offer a sinewy trail 

to get where we can’t

via thoroughfare or rhetoric. 

Muddy and bereft, we reshape 

our goings, and zag between 

light posts in unmapped realms.



Michael Lauchlan has contributed to many publications, including New England ReviewVirginia Quarterly ReviewThe North American ReviewRappahannock ReviewLouisville ReviewPoet LoreNinth LetterHarpur PalateCrannogCumberland River ReviewBellingham ReviewLake Effect, and Briar Cliff. His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave, from WSU Press. His next collection is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry.

ISSN 2632-4423

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