A pastor loiters on the lawn
beside the sidewalk outside
the Methodist Campus Ministry
left hand in his pocket, right
hand clutching a brown glazed
bowl of ashes beside a poster
attached to a wooden easel
with a hand-written message
in thick blue ink: ASHES & PRAYERS
students rush past the pastor
on their way to class, focus eyes
on iPhones, cracks in the pavement
passing trucks, bikes and cars
buildings under construction
muddy water flowing in the gutter
two pairs of white canvas shoes
laces tied together, hang from powerlines
high above the entrance to the subdivision
like a warning against suburban dreams
the empty shell of a Jacuzzi
lies stranded on its side
beside the Interstate
abandoned, waterless, powerless
three miles closer to the city
a king-sized mattress sleeps on the shoulder
pillow-top torn, stuffing emerging
like a hernia proclaiming mortality
The Suburb of the Future
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Nathanael O’Reilly is an Irish-Australian residing in Texas. His books include Preparations for Departure, Distance, Cult, Suburban Exile and Symptoms of Homesickness. His poetry has appeared in publications from twelve countries, including Antipodes, Backstory, Cordite, fourW, Headstuff, Mascara, Skylight 47, Snorkel, Verity La and The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2017.