When it happens the rain
is not black but powder.

A noise bleeds from your ears
and everything quakes

alive inside you:
the circuits of the flowers

lighting up across a meadow,
the nanoglow

of a sea years from here
           —:And like the flash

across an event horizon,
your thought disappears

:—and then the mind
threshed, and then the brain

a perfume of proto-pollen:
a microscopic cloud

radiating in a geranium
in the meadow of another country:

a powder the elk eat
in the sudden black rain.
 

More by Sara Eliza Johnson

Combustion

If a human body has two-hundred-and-six bones
and thirty trillion cells, and each cell
has one hundred trillion atoms, if the spine
has thirty-three vertebrae—
                   if each atom
has a shadow—then the lilacs across the yard
are nebulae beginning to star.
If the fruit flies that settle on the orange
on the table rise
like the photons
                     from a bomb fire miles away,
my thoughts at the moment of explosion
are nails suspended
in a jar of honey.
                              I peel the orange
for you, spread the honey on your toast.
When our skin touches
our atoms touch, their shadows
merging into a shadow galaxy.
And if echoes are shadows
of sounds, if each hexagonal cell in the body
is a dark pool of jelly,
if within each cell
drones another cell—
                        The moment the bomb explodes
the man’s spine bends like its shadow
across the road.
The moment he loses his hearing
I think you are calling me
from across the house
because my ears start to ring.
From the kitchen window
                     I see the lilacs crackling like static
as if erasing, teleporting,
thousands of bees rising from the blossoms:
tiny flames in the sun.
I lick the knife   
and the honey pierces my tongue:
                       a nail made of light.
My body is wrapped in honey. When I step outside
                                  I become fire.

Related Poems

Diving into the Wreck

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.