Frances Justine Post


Afterlife

An almost imperceptible shift in light,
a sudden low pressure, vertigo, a moment

of lessened gravity and tectonic slippage.
Then the Santa Annas with the sun filtering

down wildly between the trees. A hand reaches
from behind a tree and drops a match that has not burned out;

the palms deadheaded by lightning; a mirror
or cigarette, accident or intended. In the center,

a ring of smoke and phosphorescence. The fence
is buckling, its center given out. The horses

pound the barn, run from their own burning,
their manes aflame. Deer, graceless, flee, tails bobbing

unevenly, too long and erotic. A wolf, carrying
something scavenged, eyes sidelong, watches you.

They know when to go, can you say that for yourself
in the kitchen. You watch the approach. Squirming embers

that burn themselves out, then re-ignite with each twig.
The eucalyptus never smelled so sweet. The linoleum warm,

grows hot. The kettle whistles; your radio still murmuring.
How inferno feels from the inside: a heavy sleep

descending, gray then black. From above, the house
is a mirage. Come closer, blink your eyes; it’s gone.


The Miners

Our field the color of kiwi I stay down under the reeling stalks the dirt
rich with manure smelling like blood, minerals in front of my nose
a piece of broken corncob stripped like half a jaw with teeth intact

I go to sleep with your unseeing sliver of eye on me and dream
of breaking teeth a mouthful of jagged white and marrow
on waking your tender snore reverberates it’s nearly time

There are many steps I don’t know how though I’ve counted do you
remember I only just nervy and light-headed I see a few low
morning stars a grid of moons smearing across before it goes black

Clip clop the wheels hit a groove down we go sweat and dirt
on my nicely bleached T night’s not black down here but lime-white
bone mixed with dirt and everything combustible we paint
ourselves into a corner muck it up with our smudgy prints

Coal already smells like burning what we were sent here for we are left
behind muffled and snuffed waiting for the wall of water or the like
rocks, mud to seal us as after a river dammed at least we would be clean

Stained the color of it oil slicked with a sheen like we’ve been rubbed
too long on paper the world is cave and life above us heavy bearing down

Someone starts to hum it’s too hot for that sing something
cold a cold lullaby lull us down we’ve been down here
so long and lonely each light blinking out

Empty am so empty juiced and jangled here like a fence
made of willow we begin to grow where hammered

Outside in your red rain slicker a catch in your throat waiting
for the rain to stop me to come up finally freed a bobbing log


The Water Shoreless

Knocking at the window, a splash interrupting
a private moment, your tongue in my ear.

The water rises with the feel of clasping,
the familiar bite of salt. Now part of the eddying,

we are swept, with the rushing tide, to the living room.
There’s the writing desk, walking forward surrounded

by its cloud of ink; grandmother unearthed
in her silks. Sometimes my leg will go a little dead

when we are breathless. We are pulled up the whirlpool
of the spiral staircase, through the french doors a stingray

has smashed like a bird that sees only open sky
in the glass. The rooms make sense now as caves;

the roof has lifted. What will we see when morning comes?
A second birth? Forests of kelp? A hook on a dangling wire?

A gull preening on a sargasso raft that wicked bird
always laughing? A boat pushes towards us; it’s a trap.

Do you feel like trapping or do you just want to live on the salt.
The sail rent, the paint a dirty pool. The clouds, red when we met.