Red Hill Sumacs

Rain hits the sumacs along the Red Hill Creek
far into the valley
settles to earth, into the slow stream —
there’s no galvanized culvert yet
but the road will be built
so the friends of city hall may have
their expressway, jobs, and money

In the sunny afternoon, mud smears make clear
the path construction trailers will follow
not far from the hikers’ path
the raccoon sleeps away the day in a tree
the eagle circles high
looks for mice, random life

Soon we will have standards:
lanes, rules of road, noise and light
at night, everything done for the purpose
of getting somewhere else, of being gone from here.

The creatures are here. They have no desire to leave
while the sumacs bleed in the autumn sun
and asphalt is an abstraction
still to come.

At the top of the food chain stands
a high school student who works Sundays at the burger bar
a destination so transitory it might as well be a dream.

But if she should ever pause in her order-taking
let it be because the pheasant and the wolf
have wandered in and are about to fly out
between the buildings on either side
with whatever part of the human place-setting strikes
their fancy, and can be shared
with their young.

Chris Pannell

Chris Pannell has published six books of poetry. His collection "A Nervous City "(released in 2013) won the Kerry Schooley Book Award the following year. His latest book of poetry, "Love, Despite the Ache", won Poetry Book of the Year from the Hamilton Arts Council. He is a former treasurer and board member for the gritLIT Writers Festival and a former DARTS bus driver. He has hosted and helped the Lit Live reading series in Hamilton for more than ten years.