A Poem for the Polluted Air

Yesterday, my sister sent me a song accompanied by exclamation points. “We Will Become Silhouettes” by the Postal Service came out in 2003 but sure enough it sounds like it was written in 2020 quarantine. Judging from my social feeds, my sister and I  are not alone in finding an old favorite a little too fitting for our current moment. With this thought in mind, I turned to my writing folders to find my “throwback Thursday” post for today.

I decided to share a poem I  started writing in London. I must confess that it has been rewritten several times since my study abroad and I change the last line every time I read it. Another confession: this poem originated in a tissue after I cleared my nose of the city grim. I found my limit for city living that semester abroad. Don’t get me wrong– I love to visit and explore, but I could never live long-term in a cityscape. As the word “epicenter” gets tossed around for New York City, I again find myself thankful to be in the least populated state in the Union. I worry about my city friends and strangers while being grateful to not be their roommate or neighbor. This poem describes how I feel after several months of living in a city. Reading it now, it also seems to fit our current moment a little too close. (Though not as close as the Postal Service.)

I took this photo while visiting New York City for the first time in December 2018. One of my favorite parts of visiting a city is seeing the street art. This piece, in particular, feels on theme.

A Poem for the Polluted Air:
May Ye Be Fruitful and Multiply

Kylie Louise McCormick

Last week the smoggy dark air carried
a germ of a seed that once set
into some bedewed corner of my lung
began to root and sprout. It curves
inside me now, growing leaves as black
as the exhaust from the crowded city streets.

Over the weekend I felt like a weighted down
purse full of bricks. Concrete paving
through my veins. I lounged, lazed
about my days with construction
sounds throbbing in my head. Inside
I stiffened, grew cold and grey, still growing.

Yesterday, I heard a mess of impatient horns
all muffled and rolling like the growl
of my stomach. I yawned and a skyscraper
stretched up my throat. My sinuses crammed,
strings of laundry laced like mucus between
cramped apartments. The roots keep spreading.

I yearn for open spaces—a fresh breath of air—but all I do is sprawl.

1 thought on “A Poem for the Polluted Air”

  1. Pingback: Family Friday: Collaborating on Isolation 2020 – #kyliethehistorian

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