“I wonder if it’s possible to will myself into spontaneous combustion.”
Aleyna Rentz, from Cincinnati Review
That was the prompt for this piece of writing
Charred bones hold a certain
appeal. A ravaging by fire
before crumbling into the dirt of
Malva up the street bloom
in the palest of pinks. And now
hosta send up the sturdy
stalks of their flowers. July,
this July coming, is still familiar
to them in a way to me
it is not.
Hair shooting out of my scalp
transformed into poison darts
would more clearly show
the neighbors who I am
than the little waves, nods,
the purse across the chest,
holding phone and dog treats
as if the old rules of communication and reward still apply.
The house remains standing. The grass
grows in the fits and starts
indicative of shade. This morning
the dog sat on the deck planks
still wet from last night’s rain. He
was listening. Dogs are always
Would it help to shave my
head? To craft an embroidered
badge saying I’M DONE or WAKE UP?
To make visible the roiling
disappointment, so roiling,
so disappointed as to render the
Old styles of rebellion will not
hold. Saving democracy is
not a style decision, as much as
we might like it to be.
Revelation after damning revelation
and STILL we wonder: will it matter?
We’re talking a femoral bleed.
Grasping around to find
a tourniquet, placing the life-
saving band around the body
but forgetting how to tie a knot.
“No July 4 for me this year,” say
some, while many others have
never had much to celebrate about
our so-called independence, our
A flawed past does not
condemn us to tyranny. Please, someone,
make magnets saying that so I can put
them eye-level on the fridge, linking
hunger and hope and reason.
We don’t forget to eat, so
why should we forget to dream big?
To believe in possibility?
The squirrels chip at the air
with their throats. I used to think
it was the cardinals.
Somewhere, someone mows a
lawn. Somewhere, someone gets
water off a truck because lead
contaminates their water. Local
jack hammers signify home
improvement. Federal jack
hammering comes in the form
of 6-3 opinions. They
are blasting away at basic assumptions,
at long-held rights, at
the beliefs and needs of the majority — at
their own jurisprudence.
Who do you talk to in the
still of the night? Some nights
it is the ghost of my mother.
Other nights it is my own
nervous system. Sometimes
my children show up as absence
and silence and that keeps me
Not all loss is national and
I have my snacks ready
for the next set of revelations.
A friend is coming to sit by and
watch with me.
How we connect now matters more than ever.
Last night the sky blazed
orange. Chips of light between
maple and beech trees like mosaics.
It’s hard to remember the world
when you are perpetually walking
between kitchen and living room,
bathroom and bed. COVID, anyone? Or should I say: COVID for EVERYONE!
The world as defiled. The
world as holy. I don’t need
to shave my head to show
how my heart is trembling.
*. *. *.
This was written to a prompt in my Tuesday Amherst Writers and Artists workshop — the last until mid-August. The prompt was the Rentz quote above which appeared in a piece titled The Land of Uz. Cincinnati Review, Fall ’21.
The photo of Hutchinson was taken from a PBS website, but it is everywhere. I ran it through a filter in the Prisma app.
P.S. if you look carefully at the fairy-lights-photo, you will see Finn behind the glass door.