Hsin-Hsi Chen
Born in Taipei, Taiwan
Lives in Rockville, Maryland, United States
Grotto, 2011

McMillan Water Treatment Plant

Kim Roberts

In the control house, metal wheels
still turn on drive-shafts
but all the gauges zeroed out

decades ago.  The paint has cracked
into lizard skin.  The clean-sand towers
are hollow grey cylinders

netted with wild vines,
the levers on their undersides
white with leached mineral stalactites.

The doors to the filtration caverns
burst their rusty orphan hinges.
The cave-dark inside is vaulted

like a church, and pocked
with clerestory circles and half-moons
where manhole covers above

have twisted away.  Small trees sprout
in cement cracks, and weeds
push up between the bricks.

I rise and exit from a cavern
that’s collapsed into itself,
one large grave lined in concrete and sand.

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