The Unofficial Financial Topography of Columbia, South Carolina

by Charlotte Hughes

after Clare Pollard

From the steps of the granite-plated State House,
Columbia stretches its arms for miles, lazy & languid:

to the midcentury sanatorium with windows
pockmarked from stray baseballs, to the downtown

strip advertising very quick cash!! breakfast
sandwiches served all day!! to the three rivers

at the heart of Columbia with better deals
than any Forest Drive Walmart or Target (twice

I kayaked down the Broad and I plucked a limp
five-dollar bill and sodden blue t-shirt from the river).

Along Columbia’s twining arms, billboards advertise
luxury apartments—renovated (creating authenticity)

mills from the nineteenth century—out to the endless,
empty tobacco fields and airport plateaus. Columbia,

Columbia! That day, after I lazed on the steps
of the State House awhile, pretending to do something

important like running the capitol steps or stretching
on the lawn, I finally decided to spend my last five

dollars not on an afternoon breakfast sandwich
nor a down payment on a riverfront apartment nor time

to fish money from the river, but on a bag of roasted peanuts
from a street-cart peddler. I’d like to say it was because

I consider myself a living part of Columbia
that I didn’t think twice (of the mud, squirrels,
coughs) before putting a shell to my lips.