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“What Cheer?”
          —The official city motto of Providence, RI

Dusk’s feathering red sky, the night’s chirr
of carnival buzzers and burnt neon, counterweights
hurtling kids who pitch their half-eaten doughboys
into the churchyard across the street, a mess
of hipsters talking pull ups two blocks over
as couples palm Santiago figurines and candles,
drink Presidentes and settle on the curb outside
of Botanica San Miguel, painters tape tacked along
the cornices marking one coat from the next.

Fireworks ring off the Victorians along Broadway
but never crest the rooftops, jagged bottle heals
paw the streetlights next to Sts. Vartanantz church
and I leave the liquor store with my box wine,
rambling to my apartment, back past the carnival
weaving through strollers and foot traffic, a father
and his son hitting him with a toy bat, my quiet
apology Perdone, lo siento, his response, Sure you don’t want
to fight, amigo? his boy swinging again and again.


Cars burst their tires all hours
of the night on the granite planters
studding Messer Street. Two lanes
now converted to a one-way
drag strip for low riders and junkers
throttling by, the buzz and rattle
of exhaust found and lost among
the drunk Portuguese walkers
belting the old fado tunes, Minha Mãe
and Meia Noite ao Luar, or bikes
in grinding processions from
the Hell’s Angels clubhouse toward
Westminster and out to Olneyville.
Near asleep and Bang! Fuck! Another
blow-out on some embankment.
Pit bulls pacing the razor wire fence
in a backyard join the West End noise.
Morning, and though it’s all changed,
nothing has, more foot traffic,
less cars, I guess, so when I check
on my father’s gift to me—a raspberry
plant in a bucket on my apartment’s
balcony—I find amid the rocks
and soil an owl pellet, the mouse skull
peeking out from its furred stone,
this neighborhood gone a bit wilder.


Jacobaea Vulgaris
          —Commonly known as ‘Ragwort’

Just after the path sweeps towards the hillcrest,
where ferns crane from the murky runoff of irrigation lines,
larks in the alders, there in the weed-laden field

I sniffed and found my great-grandfather ghosting
in the acrid bouquet of yellow bursts. His footprints
in the fresh-upturned turf rows. His arthritis-swollen hands

hidden in the knuckled branches heaped along the road.
And, just as soon as he was there, just as I had
almost heard his raspy, deadpan voice on the breeze’s rim

crooning How Great Thou Art, he had already meandered
into the fray of my flannel shirt tail, the spider’s lace doilies
between the wheel spokes of a rusting hand plow.  


Mark Jay Brewin, Jr. is a graduate of the MFA program of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in numerous journals including Southern Poetry Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, The Hollins Critic, Los Angeles Review, Copper Nickel, The Labletter, Poet Lore, North American Review, Greensboro Review, Cold Mountain Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. His first book manuscript, Scrap Iron, won the 2012 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize at the University of Utah Press and will be available in the 2013 Spring catalog. Brewin is currently the poetry editor for the online publication Saxifrage Press. You can read more of his work at his website: http://markjaybrewinjr.com.