The Smog Tornado

The cars are restive,
factories uneasy against the horizon.
Dark cylinders on phone poles hum louder than before
and moles by the freeway stop digging.
A pack of small birds that always stayed away
is circling at the edge of the city.

Maybe it's nothing,
but where the freeway meets the concrete river,
where the river meets the railroad yard,
I thought I saw a smog tornado
against a cumulo-nimbus cloud.

There's something that lifts the trash from the gutters,
raises shopping carts out of the riverbed,
causes computers to think three times,
gives cellphones a moment of silence.
Something ripples through the traffic
and makes it rise in its lanes,
but the drivers remain calm
and little girls look on,
forgetting about marine biology
to consider careers as mechanics.

The bums sleeping under the overpass
are calm and weightless,
vacant lot weeds are uplifted
and every tree that ever busted a sidewalk
agrees with the motion.
A rusty air raid siren seems to moan
but there's no helicopter over this disaster.

Lone oaks on hillsides, veterans of brushfires
and unscrubbed exhaust,
hold mockingbirds who watch wisely
with one eye, then the other,
as pigeons peck
the way pigeons in the city
have always pecked.


2005 Mark Giffin