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The city longs to let the world grow into it 

when we are gone. To be like a lichen 

on a south-facing granite cliff, a seam 

of coal, a coral reef in a shallow sea. 

I too like to imagine what I might become 

given enough time and pressure. 

A thousand programmers dream along 

with my recurring dream, light it up 

in binary glory to pull me inside 

night after night, hoping to make myself a hero 

in someone else’s story. In my dream 

vines reach up to seize the skyscrapers, 

pry out their windows and invade 

their vents, turning them to scaffolding 

in time-lapse, dragging at them like a kid 

hanging from her dad’s belt. I wander into the wreck 

wearing leather skirts, paint streaking 

my bare arms, passing things that have outlasted 

any use or meaning. A toilet bowl 

full of soil, turning waste to riches 

since the pipes are rusted shut. A PC tower 

as flowerpot, an oven as racoon den, the bolt 

of every locked door ripped through its frame. 

I climb story to story, salvaging what I can— 

a scarred steel dog bowl to mold into a helmet, 

the wooden seat of a chair to whittle flat 

into a slaughtering board, a hen-

of-the-woods sprouting from the rotting 

carcass of a couch to take back and fry 

for my kids and neighbors who wait 

in camp on a cut bank of the big river, 

over a slight rise with a view of the sea. 

               —after Horizon Zero Dawn

Listen to "Olalla" by Blanco White, selected to accompany T.J.'s work, below:

00:00 / 04:08
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T. J. MCLEMORE is the author of the chapbook Circle/Square, winner of the 2019 Autumn House Press chapbook contest (AHP, 2020). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New England Review, Crazyhorse, The Adroit Journal, 32 Poems, Prairie Schooner, LitMag, The Common, and other journals. Individual poems have been featured on Poetry Daily, selected for Best New Poets, and nominated for the Pushcart Prizes. McLemore is a doctoral candidate in English and environmental (post)humanities at the University of Colorado Boulder.

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