Once in the west I rose to witness
the cleverest devastation.
It was early but I was late
and the quiet into which I crept –

nightshifters, gin-veined men,
a stare with a burn scar and a rosary –
was intimate, inviolate, tribal.
I didn’t so much keep it as was kept.

A whisper-rupture, feathery detonation,
last concussive flash of a great heart giving way
and all the outworn stories collapsed
in a kind of apocalyptic plié.

Vanish the dancer and the dance remains
a time, an agile absence on the air.
I cannot say what, or why, or even when it was.
I only know it happened, and I was there.

Christian Wiman, “Razing a Tower,” in Once in the West

Encountered this poem while reading Natalie Moore’s The South Side, and they had a certain resonance.

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