by Leah Falk
To hold a body down must be the reason:
spray of pebbles
on one grave, conch shell bouquet on another.
On her knees, my mother pulled a froth of clover. Yes, to hold a body
away from home—
in our garden, she’d waited like a stone waits, to be moved.
Someone has been here, stone says, built a trellis, hung grapes,
opened the clematis,
spread the peach with black pepper, pruned
hydrangea, dropped blank blooms from
muscled wooden arms,
tucked listening white in the grass.
Here, we leave nothing living. It is custom.
Hold me down
while I dream: that at the bus stop
stone slabs left from years of horses burst
with rust and ochre
as though peach and crabapple, grown past given shapes,
had fallen there. Wasn’t that geology, earth blushing time.
A long improvised climb
with ropes and hooks.
Not long since we’d held looseleaf against antique headstones, rubbed with wax
until Infant Daughter, God
broke out in fever, fuchsia, gold.
For the slab my mother found a pine cone. Soon, she’d leave behind a wait so long
it could have been the swell of feldspar
in a cut of granite
or the harsh outcropping around which her fist was formed,
staining her palm with live color,
Notes from a Salt Flat Prisoner
by Noel Crook
On this island, love, there is nothing but black
and white, the sea’s flat back that keeps us,
bleak shards of coral honed sharp as knives
by tireless wavelets. And the salt—vast,
blinding pans for us to rake. It galls
our wrists and shins like manacles.
Nothing grows here but these crystals. Even
the dark seaweed swirling in the inlets
rises on spindly legs as if to swim
away. Small black lizards whisper
names of home against the dry rocks
and we boil them for it. We are sick
of fish. All day the sun’s blanched eye
scorches us, and not one rock
big enough to hide under. I am changed
by this place—like Lot’s wife
I look back, reconfigure
the purple shadows in the struts of your
ribs, your tongue in my mouth like pure fire.
Here there is no holy water or sin.
Each night we bathe ourselves in brine,
lie under a black collar of sky, the spume
of white salt stars, the salt white moon,
the sting of crystals blooming on our skin.
Pictures of the Floating World, Iwate Prefecture
by Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer
After The Atlantic Monthly’s “Japan Earthquake: Before and After,” February 23, 2012
In the pictures of Japan,
the whole sea seems ashore. Unsettlingly
sublime—despite the boats unmooring,
now unsafely harbored streetside, massed
in power lines, tethered in the bight.
The first wave crests the bluest blue,
a font outlined in sumi ink expresses gently
on the beach—a controlled wave
befitting the masters of the art,
but whatever mastered this great wave
was not the gentler sort,
and what breaks from crests brought forth
from the earth’s own heaving core
is no white-splined woodcut
to be plainly stored away, but polluted as
coal-gray snow that melts in torrents
and complicates the shoreline—
an ink-black breach of barriers
built not tall enough to parry
the wave that beached the Asia Sympathy
deep into a seawall, which it sheared with its blunt hull
like an offending, halting monster.
The repeating instance of the ocean
is no accident: bright turquoise, cyan, aquamarine—
the colors of signage, and siding and tiered tile roofs;
an irritant to the barrenness, bereft
of standing walls—
a pedestrian crossing, a right arrow,
directions to the beach—
all timber and blue
fishing crates, blue bridges and railings,
as though attended by a bowerbird
at the beginnings of a nest, whose satin feathers glow
a cesium-gas violet. A breach begins
its mating call, a dance—collecting, out of habit
some cheerful things that make a mountain
from a mountain disappear into the surf.