by Emma McNeel
Bodies, when exposed to extreme heat, like that from a fire
or volcanic eruption, curl up into the pugilistic stance, hands
clenched like boxers’ in protective fists.
I am trying not to do that. I promise
I am trying not to do that.
In the museum hangs a map of the ground below,
from ash all the way up to topsoil. Where city once stood,
where I stand now. History rests
beneath my feet.
When you touch me what
are you touching?
There are still bones
within the plaster casts of Pompeii.
Mothers, children, guard dogs. Skulls,
I am still here. I promise you I am
When life ended in Pompeii, it took three days
for the city to pass away. Trembling
earth, crumbling sky. Citizens eventually knew
something was happening. When you walk
into their homes, you have to remember
you are not walking into everyday
life stopped suddenly but instead evacuation.
When I was there, I saw olives
growing in the trees.