Hutchinson, Kansas, Which is Not Really Hutchinson, Kansas: Dream IV – by Steve Brisendine

We have come to get out of the city,
visit old friends and our former church,
only to find the town shadowed by this
simulated mushroom cloud and heavy
equipment – bulldozers, backhoes, an
occasional dump truck – rattle-rolling
through the streets outside this hotel
coffee shop as we linger over breakfast.

It is a war exercise, we are told, one
known to the locals; perhaps all this
plays out across the country today,
unannounced and ominous. We sit
three blocks from Ground Zero, or
where a computer says it would be.

             Ten thousand, one hundred
             and eighty-two dead, they say,
             but I guess that’s all pretend,

our waitress informs us and tops off
my coffee as another dozer rolls by.

I wonder if we are among them;
surely someone would have told us
before we ordered, as no one would
want even faux casualties eating up
the food. Ham and eggs aren’t cheap.

Outside, the cloud holds its shape,
no mean feat in the Kansas wind.

            Some poor sucker had to
            put that up, and another
           one’s gonna have to take
           it down when this is over,

the waitress muses to no one but
the front window.

            Not sure who’s paying for
            all this, but it’s probably me.

Steve BrisendineSteve Brisendine — writer, poet, occasional artist and recovering journalist — lives and works in Mission, Kansas. His most recent collection is To Dance with Cassiopeia and Die (Alien Buddha Press, 2022), a “collaboration” with his former pen name of Stephen Clay Dearborn. He holds no degrees, several longstanding grudges and any number of strong opinions.