No rain for weeks, cows hold
their milk within covetous udders.
The river lies still as an infant
floating in formaldehyde,
schools of harried shad shuddering
on pebbled banks, a rank
reminder of August coming.
Two nights ago fireworks lit up
parched tobacco fields, the sweet
smell reaching for the towns, listing
into factory windows where women
working the cemetery shift ducked
their tongues, spoke of children
burning the whole city down.
II. Looking Up
We were sweating already,
our heads cocked like chickens
gaping at the rain, transfixed
by acrobats on high:
an entire family suspended
from a miniature porch swing.
Ir began like applause;
first one scream then a thunder
of animals and heat,
a sun rising above us
husking our skin, the backs
of children rippling like tide.
III. "It was like watching the gates of Hell open"
Looked down and saw my bones
peering our from burning flesh.
Saw my brother lit up
like night skies in Germany,
passing flames from pants to hands
to tousled hair. Went under.
Woke up buried in plaster.
Heard wheezing, crying, silence.
Asked for my sister Eleanor.
Watched the nurses turn away.