Air, fire, water, earth
Fire up a gas line cleans the rock
Gusts can move a hearth behind its glass
Fog, smolder, rainfall, dirt
I might feel bad, except I am
all cords, and public
Breath, ember, pool, ash
Black from the pull of the rip
In my side, I go down, despite how I swim
Vortex, strata, breaker, flames
The feel of sand, silt
Gives sense of it: stingray passing
Sky, woods, marsh, spark
Scattered to land, rippled
Hair lacerates the mad
Blast, soil, spray, blaze
Weight, split the day, coax me back
To test my luck and face the water down
Windmill, totem, furnace, dew
Long Beach Island, New Jersey
Stirring instant coffee, I’ll ask you if you’ve read
The Day They Shook the Plum Tree, knew islanders
who drank grandfather’s gin, sponged out his extra-dry
martini’s olive buoy, hung lamps, glass thick as pine.
The wind’s a strung-out heirloom, whips by Engleside,
its trumpet blasting: where’d you get
those eyes? Broadcast static, creak of wicker,
water’s edge unfastens. Then the sea
from salt-box to pavilion, Fifth and Beach,
where ships, unmoored,
waked and rolled before big storms, big wars.
To think you were in love with that
ramp, grid, and range,
where birds perched under cinder
longed for trees as rain
knocked blossoms to the dirt.
When all hell rose,
dormers hit the pavement,
beams ripped roofs off.
Humans clenched their bodies
(brick hard over heart)
as structures failed,
Dispatched, I knew
we’d not get back the neighborhood.
The day you ditched repair,
and sold the lot,
gave up your tale of going south, the weather
changed. The day
you made the front page,
I put the porch on.
[Valerie Duff’s To the New World (Salmon Poetry) was shortlisted for the 2011 Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, AGNI, Harvard Review, PN Review, Denver Quarterly, Poetry Daily, Antioch Review, and other journals. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Common, The Prague Revue,and Poetry Northeast. Her reviews and writings have appeared in the The Wolf, The Boston Globe, The Journal, and The San Francisco Chronicle. She has received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and St. Botolph Foundation for her work, and earned degrees from Trinity College, Dublin, Boston University, and St. John’s College. A native Virginian, she is the poetry editor of Salamander Magazine and lives in Boston.]
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