Lena Crown

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            St. Louis, MO

The boy with the couch and coffee table 
had recently been left.

It came as a set, he said, She liked
midcentury modern, bought from Amazon.
The table legs splayed out just like a foal’s,
young and spindly—emulating, but only
emulating, instability.

Thirteen stories down, a jogger dodged
tectonic plates of concrete knocked askew
along the park, which stretched mutely toward
the horizon, the Arch a sterling thread
plucked loose from the seam.

Flush against the sliding door, I watched
the goings-on while Neen talked down the price.

I thought again, as I sometimes did while driving
down Skinker toward the highway, of the boy
who, years ago, high on coke or drunk and high
on coke, had leapt or slipped from a balcony here
and died. It felt new, to be conjuring him from inside.

The jogger’s feet ticked clockwise up the block.
The concrete sopped up the sudden weight of his
living, the intestinal weather and uneven stride.

Beside a young, braced tree, a bottle of wine
had bled arterial streams into the dirt.

Act like you’re not sure about the furniture,
Neena had coached me in the car, So he’ll go lower.

How could he know what we wouldn’t leave
without? We kept hidden, for now, that underground
Jonah idled in his cobalt Dodge, the bed
empty, awaiting the symbolic remnants
of the poor guy’s empty bed, tires straddling
two spaces across the white line, and
the storied body in the mineral regions
below the rubber and cement, still falling.

The Chain of Rocks Bridge

after Natalie Scenters-Zapico

A hillside slides shyly toward the highway.
The asphalt erupts in boils from the flood.
A boy jumps off the bridge to Illinois
and survives the fall with neatly parted hair.
When he crashes his car into another car,
the impact tears the tissue behind my lip.
If the city really is a body broken
then the body must be a covenant, the terms,
once plain, now so faint as to wonder how
leaving, having left, should break or keep it.
Example: however many years ago
a man and woman tumbled from the deck
into the same river we once saw swallow
a car, the white skull now and again
appearing, disappearing, amid the ice floes.
Shallow isles of snow clung in the water,
billows of drowned grocery-store plastic
in a stolid stream of freshly mixed cement.
Around us, tourists scouted for the skeleton
in the archipelago. Out west, the sprawl
glittered like pills, splinters of shell.

From the Author: These poems belong to a larger project about living in St. Louis, Missouri—the most interesting city in the world—and about how the built environment conditions our behavior, what it forces us to remember, what it lets us forget.

Lena Crown is a writer, editor, and educator from the California Bay Area. Her work is published or forthcoming in Guernica, The Rumpus, Joyland, Passages North, Grist, Gulf Coast, Narratively, North American Review, and elsewhere. In 2023, she received fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Peter Bullough Foundation to support two books in progress. She recently served as the PEN/Faulkner Writer in Residence and as the 2023-24 Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Nonfiction at Colgate University.