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, 
with teeth. 
I am still here. I promise you I am 
still here. 
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.