Backfire 2

by Heather Derr-Smith



The city’s hieroglyphics
appearing from the haze as if
we are descending

In a plane and hover right above the moment when words become legible.

The air, like rough, white parchment,

The chaparral in the Santa Monica Mountains continues to erupt

Its desires, bush to bush beating with invisible flashing hearts—

Helicopters fly low over the China graffiti and explosions of bougainvillea.

We ascend the mountain’s alter-stair to the Hollywood sign,

glowing apparitional
on the hill.

The diminutive orange trumpets of the sage blossoms blow

Their small notes of color and scent.

I want to be your young wife

Thirty hours pregnant,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . Neruda opened at my pelvis.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The lights of L.A. flicker
and reflex

like millions of votives in the temple. And I say it with Sappho,

Let it happen to me, all.

The ravens, like hustlers, ascend the avocado tree.

A charred squirrel, insides spilled and lit up like black pearls—

The lights scatter in a dense universe of stars.

When you rise to go

I’ll turn into the cat-claw acacia,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I’ll hook your clothes; I’ll hook a rib.

I was like the melanophilia beetle

Who senses the fire from miles away
. . . . . . . . . . . . .And comes to lay her eggs in the heat.

A snake darts fast between us,

Dangerous as the look on my face and the look on yours.

Fire loosens the air between us, love loosening my limbs,

Undressing the lemon trees,

Our bedroom floor is scattered with Gabriel’s 600 beating wings.


Read Heather Derr-Smith’s Energumen

Or read more poetry in our current issue