Virginia, Minnesota is one of a handful of cities in the United States heated by steam that runs through pipes below the city. People park in alleys in Virginia, as the pipes run beneath them. Steam rises eerily from the alleys on wet winter’s eves, melting shovels.
For years, steam from beneath Virginia’s streets
seeped into my grandmother’s buffet
where tight walnut drawers trapped its ever-wet scent
in a sea of her linens from Finland.
Today, the drawers open to an olfactory ovation
as inklings of my well-loved child self waft out
amidst trapped steam and my grandparents’ spirits.
Every time I open the drawer,
intense physicality threads tangible waves
through my torso, and a reverie rises,
breathing in ancient expressions
Brenda Warren 2012
Margo Roby asked participants in her weekly Tuesday Tryouts to write a poem about self. This developed from that idea. The melting shovels are a marriage of surrealism and hyperbole. The alleys aren’t hot, but they are warm enough that snow does not stick to them, and they are all paved. Some of the alleys are named half streets, for example 8 1/2 Street South, where my cousins grew up.