The Fourth River

Tributaries: “Someone Else’s City”

By on May 1, 2017

By Robin Rozanski


This city is compact.

However you define city and downtown and wherever you draw the lines, the whole thing is morphing. The roads are ripped up for construction, and the new buildings behind the barricades are ghostly bare. They’re still in the most utilitarian of stages. The concrete base divides foundation from interior floor; beams support the roof. This is a three-dimensional blueprint: numbers and angles. It is not a library, theatre, or apartment complex, and if you try to imagine it as such you feel empty and misplaced.

The quick-change of landmarks confuses people with a weak sense of direction. Foggy plastic sheets cover these structures. An unseen generator powers light and heat for the workers. The noise is fast; machines whir, and boards bang against each other. There’s the hydraulic hiss-pop of a nail gun, and its recurrence is startling. The heavy dusk of the early winter evening settles quickly; the lights of cars and store windows can’t deter the darkness.

This city is compact. It’s a machine, still powered by gears and steam as well as circuits and networks, and it churns against itself. A homeless woman with a blank piece of cardboard waves at rush hour traffic like she’s the homecoming queen. One hundred commuters on their way to pick up Chinese take-out look away.



Robin Rozanski’s writing has appeared in A Cappella Zoo, Hint Fiction: An Anthology, Thrice Fiction Magazine, The Austin Review, and elsewhere. She has an MA in creative writing from the University of Central Florida, and is a teaching artist at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. In 2015 she was a recipient of the InterMedia Arts Beyond the Pure Fellowship for Writers. Follow her on Twitter @RobinRozanski.