V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




My brother’s funeral over, the dark-clothed
        congregation clots the church doors, a lingering

aftermath moving into flat light.
        The sky low and swollen, a storm siren

begins sounding long, expansive notes, evenly
        measured, so loud the pauses in between

ring with aftersound. Used to it, no one here appears
        alarmed, and the church ladies, gravely industrious,

stream into his house bearing platters
        of fried chicken, devilled eggs, casseroles—

colorful, layered creations—congealed salads
        with fruit suspended inside.  All of it sand.

The muted television is tuned to the weather,
        a small area of warning now upgraded

to watch, the words streaming across the bottom
        of the screen calling conditions perfect, this town,

this house disappeared beneath the map’s isolated
        lesion, its red edges uneven, unmoving.

The forecasters rely they say on spotters,
        those who confirm what the radar cannot—

what they call ground truth; until then
        no one knows anything for certain

beyond this inward watching.  People mill
        around balancing heavy plates, the room

humming, an airless, crowded hive. Their mouths are full.
        They have no wings. I have come here too late,

his body gone, already ash. Its body
        could be forming now, tightening from cloud

to the gyre that will consume its path, all of it
        a becoming—spiraling a wall of dust,

 mud, sand, and water; with dispassion taking up
        into itself the fence line, a barn—the house

beside them spared with the same dispassion. Or this,
        more likely now: siren silenced, the winds

diminishing, the light, afternoon’s concession
        to another dusk—severe, more common truth.

© by Claudia Emerson


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