Pilgrim Baptist Church Fire, 2006

Michael Welch

                      This city sings on –
     when hymns fade                    cicadas screech from shadowed nooks
        flames crackle in attic corners                    and trains grumble from exalted tracks     
          – disparate tunes convene the choir,
through crunch of roof beams, fires hum                    and sparks jolt from electric rails
           reach crescendo at the vaulted ridge                    as an El ferries bodies to the skyline’s heart
       to call the attention of some higher ear.
unfurl the smoke that swallows street as                    elsewhere crews stake fresh steel into earth
   congregations pull open their windows                    to set sights on sites of promise.          
        The chorus draws notes from deep in its guts
fire skins the house Thomas Dorsey built                    cicadas shed antique bodies
 while flames sing his singed sheet music                    before abandoning a hallowed shell.
             Every time this city burns,
              it rises a bit more muted.

Author Photo - Michael Welch

Michael Welch is a writer from Chicago. He was a finalist for the 2019 Breakout 8 Writers Prize, the winner of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies' Florence Kahn Memorial Award, and the author of the chapbook, 'But Sometimes I Remember.' His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Kenyon Review Online, Iron Horse Literary Review, and elsewhere. He received a Master's degree in fiction from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and serves as a daily editor for the Chicago Review of Books. Find him at www.michaelbwelch.com and @MBWwelch.