and there were streetlights
of blue mercury poison.
geologic infiltration of delirium
nocturnal urban ranting, fluid as snowflakes.
but they were beautiful
chromatic in their way, in the stars
the brightest, analog of the city.
terminal moraine of arc lamps
spread in spectral meridians above and below.

evolution of streetlights
become alien vaporized pink salt,
blurred pandemic of spreading fugue.
here, the stars find no sisters.
contained, the city finds no sky.
flat ceiling of orange rotting glass:
opaque, tautologous, masturbatory,
grounded in recent days and all but buried
in smoking cobble pre-determined.
resign to safety this pure disgorged sodium—
it kills only the heart,
and then
only slowly.

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TRAVIS CEBULA is originally from Colorado, but currently lives, teaches, and creates in Maryland. He earned an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School in 2009, the same year he founded Shadow Mountain Press, a small press specializing in the creation of hand-made chapbooks of poetry. In addition to his editing and publishing duties he dabbles in photography, is a freelance graphic designer, teaches creative writing at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, and is a member of the permanent faculty at the Left Bank Writers Retreat in Paris, France.

His poems, essays, stories, and photographs have appeared internationally in various print and on-line journals, including New American Writing, Aufgabe, Fact-Simile, Third Coast, and Eleven Eleven, just to name a few. He is the author of five chapbooks, including Some Exits, Some Colors Will Touch Regardless, and, most recently, …but for a Brief Interlude at Versailles from Highway 101 Press (2011). He has written two full-length collections of poetry: Under the Sky They Lit Cities, published by BlazeVOX Books in 2010, and Ithaca, which is his most recent collection. It’s available now from BlazeVOX Books. A new collaborative effort with Sarah Suzor, After the Fox, will be released in 2014 by Black Lawrence Press.

In 2011 he was gratefully awarded the Pavel Srut Fellowship for poetry by Western Michigan University. Current projects include the Oracle project, which is an attempt to involve artists all over the world in an ongoing, pseudo-prophetic conversation.

8 responses to “Under the Sky They Lit Cities”

  1. Hauntingly beautiful poem, Travis. Wonderful to have you aboard TNB.

    • Travis says:

      Thank you very much, Rich. It’s an honor to be here among such great company–and I’m grateful for the kind words about the poem.

  2. milo martin says:

    bitchen poem…
    and one knows a poem is bitchen when one wishes one had written a certain line
    or any number of lines ex “nocturnal urban ranting, fluid as snowflakes…”
    yeah that’s bitchen…

  3. Travis says:

    Thanks, man. I might be willing to trade you for “if I could, I would go back and rectify all the hatchings”

    THERE’S an amazing line.


  4. Janine Adair Kohanim Ferrell says:

    Gorgeous fluid imagery….visceral and oddly, fragile. When I was 13 I “escaped” the Iranian revolution with my family and spent some time in a company-owned Manhattan apartment. I remember looking out the window at night at the pink sky, devoid of stars, and being filled with post-apocalyptic dread, vowing never to live in NYC or any place that thought a pink sky was at all acceptable. Thank you for sharing. More please.

  5. Erika Rae says:

    Travis – this was beautiful. Also, I see you live in Golden. We’re practically neighbors.

  6. Travis says:

    Janine- Thank you! I’ll see about maybe getting you a link to some other work you might find interesting.

    Erika- Also, thank you! Where do you live that we’re practically neighbors? It’s always great to expand one’s local community…

  7. Travis says:


    Here’s a link to a longer, related poem over at InStereo Press (as well as a recording of me reading it), should anyone like to see/hear it. Cheers!

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