John Street Watershed

In our basement, soaking mops, felt sops,
fans, and a useless shop-vac. The sump pump’s

conversation, all regurgitation
and monologue.

The old man down the street
tries to clear the storm drain again:

leaves, plastic flotsam, papery slops,
a condom, and one rubbery flip-flop.

Rain by gills, by gallons.
A boorish rain. A brutal rain.

200 drowned nightcrawlers on a sidewalk slab.
Prairie and Elm and Pine streets flooded.

They’ll add more culverts, pipes, retention ponds.
On a city map (hand-drawn, from the county

archives) farms and fields, a crooked line
branching eastward, cutting through pasture:

It shows a creek where John Street is now,
cattails, scouring rush, bluejoint grass,

and still, beside the creek,
a great blue heron with rain-slick feathers

and lifted beak, dour prophet, skewer
of blind, unwary shadows.

Janice N. Harrington teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois. Her latest book of poetry is The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home.