Dust Lords

by Clay Cantrell

It had been six weeks since the wildfires
and already he’d stopped remembering.

Mansions collapsed every day
and the old man tried to measure distances, echoes.

He sawed through cedar posts and strung wire taut−
a way to catch skeletons.

His wife sang a harrowing song to antlions.

Oh this world                is not my home

Her reedy voice carried over beds of ash.

A watercolor sun touched the horizon.

He also played solitaire
in an RV hidden by gray snowdrifts,
talking to people who weren’t there.

There’d never been a blizzard like that in Disappointment, Kentucky.

He watched gasmasks emerge over a hill
and wondered what language they spoke.

They looked like ancient divers skulking across an ocean floor.
They moved northwest towards town.

Through the smoke he traced them,

stick figures dragging across a frozen surface,
disappearing into soot-colored tree line.

A yellow pediment pointed at the sky.
Starlings fell with folded wings
and reminded the old man of long ago banquet birds.

He’d recited a psalm in the burned-out chapel
and the words “valley of the shadow…” repeated in his mind.

If I live through winter, he thought, I’ll find a good spot to fish.

Old women carrying censers exited a cemetery.
They looked like slow chrysanthemum fireworks.

The world was addicted to that kind of exodus.

People sometimes hoped the mountains would cave in

and then felt dumb betting against mountains.


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