our measured treads

by strannikov

in the neighborhood of Vesuvius


for Herculaneum as for Pompeii

the blast announced: “too late to flee”.

all public streets each private space

all sites decreed—no lives survive.


—yet frantic to outrun the racing sky

useless curses hurled 'pon falling down

moments colliding cooking frozen steps

paces cease as hot grey mortar swims

few hurries left to be in—


carts horses mules without speed

with no escapes no paths away

shores achoke while being pushed offshore

boats ablaze float off to sink

as ash displaces every air

no space for bugs nor birds to fly.


racing only out of life this day

concealing childs from ashen airs

bricks lie beneath thick mortared rain

grey ash the whisper of the world

all silences are swallowed gone.


clouds had to be inhaled this day

no place was given else to breathe:

faithful dogs howl and howl no more

rats perish, cats slink off to die

each curled into enduring sleep

in each grey corner hidden deep

relentless storms of ash fell grey

rinsing floors caking tiles silencing all steps.


moans of final prayers subside: hearing gods

listen as ashes wash over those towns

hear floods of ash wash through those towns

into submerged sealed silenced sleeps.



crowds commuting to


I recall hearing hundreds sprawl

across the terminal's paved floors

most for the escalators bound

(career-bound for cabs, at least some few)

most a scurry of legs like me

legs quick as the wheels of the trains

that had traveled us there, that far.


some dasht to one side first to shop:

might drop off some shoes for repair

or browse newspaper racks for truth

(preferred reads for coffees at desks)

bagels doughnuts cinnamon buns

voices asleep in coffee queues.


I saw over twelve hundred times

morning commutes across five years

regularly keen to see them

more faces an hour than back home

(where not one minute's faces lived,

nor to be seen in just one day)—

hundreds of faces, thousands, too,

varieties of faces read

for features expressions displayed

for what their histories could tell.


through twenty seasons faces marcht—

not as battalions, regiments

aligned in step, alike in garb—

but pedestrian, none the less.


their faces moved as fast as legs

through any weather any day

(Mondays through Fridays, holidays off)

with and without umbrellas in hand

with and without overcoats and hats

depending on the season and day,

no scarves in summer, gloved winter hands.


—and the god presiding over all

a four-faced, double-Janused clock

its equal seconds clickt away

ticking us our steps and breaths

timing us to traffic and to trains

chronicling moments of blurring sight

circling over chattered talk clattered steps—

but not naming once how late the day.