Pompeii

Because the worst catastrophes
always come without warning.
Because I never knew who was already
several buckets of rust to the wind in other chambers.
On the floor of my blue bedroom,
turning the key to my roller skate
a few notches tighter
it could come. Or dragging
the tines of a hair brush through my unruly ends,
watching a Kingfisher dance
along the slats of the backyard fence,
his black crown flashing in the sun. The rumblings
would startle a far off room,
tremors snaking floorboards until I felt it:
shock waves seeping through doors,
finding my lower holes and gut,
my throat suddenly sucked of all its decent moisture,
voice transformed to pumice as I froze,
roar of whatever rupture between the others
obliterating time and any sense
of who I was.
When I return years later,
inspect the pockets preserved by ash and lack of air
beneath heavy layers,
like a tongue depressor keeps a sick girl mum
until she knows better, coughing it out,
the treasure’s no longer silent.
Thirty-one silver coins, four finger rings
and a candelabrum sing.
Spaces where the bodies fell,
clean and intact if I try.
I prod them with my sharpened point
so the pictures resume: writhing bodies, contorted
mouths and wheeling fists
like spinning chariots, drapes and vases
clutched in desperation, a flowery blur of flames.
My mother’s face melting
as her men, her mountain tops
keep erupting and won’t stop
until we’re all ghost monuments,
cast in the act of fleeing
our unnatural disaster,
our mesmerizing human fire.

 

 

 

Michelle Bitting’s latest collection is The Couple Who Fell to Earth (C & R Press, 2016) which received a starred and Best of 2016 medal from Kirkus Reviews. She has poems forthcoming or published in The American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Narrative, Vinyl, Plume, diode, Nimrod, the Paris-American, Fjords, and others. Poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. Her book Good Friday Kiss won the DeNovo First Book Award and Notes to the Beloved (C & R Press) received a starred Kirkus Review as well. Poems have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes, and most recently, The Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize. Michelle has taught poetry in the U.C.L.A. Extension Writer’s Program, at Twin Towers prison and for ten years has been an active California Poet in the Schools. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University, Oregon and is completing a PhD in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. For more info: https://www.crpress.org/shop/the-couple-who-fell-to-earth/

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