Journalism In Verse

steam

STEAM

in Hurricanes/U.S. by

Heat in staggered shimmers lulls
up over the rainbow crosswalk.
This sky blue, still as department
store photo studio backdrops doesn’t
wait to be forgotten in framed
compartments, or soggy shoeboxes
more lasting than their old inhabitants.

This shade of girl hits and grabs in home
invasions. An army of giants is behind
her, fidgeting knuckles and twisting wrists,
as restless as a candle in a grotto next
to a Catholic Church. Stop 1: Your favorite
writers converted to rum drink martyrs here–
they prayed as much for pain as for the memory
to avoid her. Don’t listen to me God, is how
I’ve ended all my pleas.

Blues get sung as hard as lungs exhale
while your ears depressurize in moisture.
The eyes and news, a spiral of colors as wide
as the size of indecipherable lies. There’s a bidding war for wind speeds by the chorus of talking heads before the price gougers hold auctions for the sustenance of generators and palettes of potable water. Soundtrack of
storm track: a silence between grocery
speaker singing.

2.
This is raindrops and ceiling drips, collecting
ships of shore, and miles of electrical wire
restrung; a tangle and decimation of boat
hulls and favorite spots, the nearly citrus
elegance of a thousand poinciana trees all
gone. When they look up and know the word
survived no one considers the thirst.

All of your favorite places resemble the people out there beyond the phone calls; all of your favorite people collect in puddles on the floor.

Stop 2: Remember when we walked your
high heels flat and ended up at the Southernmost
Point buoy? The water at night. The water held
and lurched and laughed and gasped and lingered
loved and heaved on tiptoes and eyelashes.

3.
All of your favorite places resemble the people
out there beyond the phone calls; all of your favorite people collect in puddles on the floor.

4.
Have you ever looked hard at a later
Chuck Close–after the incident
and the airbrush? Every section
of every face on close inspection
resembles the swirl of a hurricane.

Every person you meet or blink
a greeting to, your exaggerating
pores caught in a true intimacy
of rapport, with the camera shutter
smiling wide, has to wade away
from your color speckled eyes.

There’s you in Los Angeles and all those fires; there’s me back east with the floods and rain. Every time we meet with mouths and slippery roads the combination does the inevitable: steam and sighs are rising.

Shake off the seaweed slime
of the ocean surge receding.

5.
There’s you in Los Angeles and all those fires;
there’s me back east with the floods and rain. Every time we meet with mouths and slippery roads the combination does the inevitable:
steam and sighs are rising.

At the checkpoint today they scan windshields
for resident stickers. The pedestrians stand
in line on meandering bike paths. The security
staff stops every person like contestants
in a spelling bee. “Now redefine the word,”
they say.

Home. Home sweet home, full steam ahead.
Sweat on the sheets, mosquito clouds above
our bathtub, a curfew in the nighttime. Now
explain the concept of love.

6.
Every end of the world is the worst.
Ours are just nearsighted and permanent
until the next one. And the next one
after that. Our endings stack up like waves
without a shore to lick. It’s true, they say:
In the center of the storm the birds come out
again. Thank God that’s over, the beginning.

7.
Kristen worked at the Butterfly Conservatory
and one of her supervisors cringed if anyone
said “museum.” She quit to spray paint stencils
of saints and movie heroines surrounded
and drown by butterflies. You know
what they say about the beat and flick
of wings in humid steam? A single butterfly
in Key West can make the world watch TV
screens for days.

8.
Outside the storefronts coerced to boarded-up shyness, empty sidewalk squares squeal or moan in loneliness. The longest cement stretches of this street haven’t ever been so neglected from the press and strut of stiletto heels and shiny latex boots, as in this anticipatory air. Down against the gray grain of sidewalk flesh, a set of dance instructions lays indecipherable, save for believers born from equal parts revelation and disguise.

A couple named Harvey and Irma
make the news. They’ve been married
for 456 years.

9.
Irma be gentle.
Irma go home.
Irma leave us be.
Alone is what we will never see.

10.
A couple named Harvey and Irma
make the news. They’ve been married
for 456 years. How long can you light
candles and pray before you recognize
the difference between faith and reason?
There are so many seasons of sorrow;
the next morning glances of a
blossoming love. When you drive by
anything with a con leche in hand you’ll
notice the people you love as bare as lovers
after showers. Some of us smell the subtle
perfume of commitment in the clean corners
of aftermath. Prepare for a baby boom nine
months or so from now. Remember after 9/11
all those couples who rekindled from ashes
and melting I-beams? What reminders of
forever and nothing do you need to decide
exactly which direction you want to live
your life?

11.
Turner lashed himself to a mast
and asked the captain to find a storm.
He needed to paint the heart of something
beautiful. Beating is what hearts and fighters
and winds and lives do, too. What color
are the middles of your nightmares?

12.
Denisa shows a photo of box fans
pointing toward the ocean. Even Harold
decides to leave.

I have an EMT friend with a box of helmets
and some snorkels. As barometers reveal
curving glass of eyeballs
no one remembers how to breathe.

13.
Mark drives across Alabama.
Geoff and his wife and cat
laugh in a hotel in Orlando.
Rocky rides the back of Josh’s
scooter on the elevator to a room
on the second floor.

14.
There are category zones
and time zones and the different
creases in the palm of your hand
help witches and warlocks predict
the paths of lives.

Grid as in energy. Grid, a finger
pressed in the center of your hand
for a game of invisible tic tac toe.
Each of us remembers
in eyesight trails the hindsight
of x’s and o’s.

I love you.

Pick a color, she said. Pick a name
for hurricanes that land
and pick a name for the lovers
you left behind.

Every one makes me wonder
about the nature of the word “safe.”

15.
I get the emails,
phone calls and text messages.
Every one makes me wonder
about the nature of the word “safe.”

I’m in Boston, in a gym. With the steam
room men. They laugh at the television
screen.

“I never understood Florida.”
“It’s ok for a vacation maybe.”

I ask them if they’ve ever been.
No one knows what I mean.

16.
Look at the lines.
The lines for gas. For water.

Look at the premonitions
of computers. Lashing lines
of sailboats hived. Downed
power lines; traffic lines
next to highway signs.

How many ways
are made for waiting?
Explain, again, why anyone
would ever leave.

17.
Greg figured he might as well
try Michigan early. Jim and Jeff
caught a break on the last plane
before the swirl of clouds could
chew at what remained.

Jeremy asks Hank to check his
house but the spare key blew away.

Have you seen the comparison
to Andrew? I heard the bridges
broke. There isn’t water. Where
is Smitty? Has anyone seen this
woman? Could someone check
my house? My goldfish is there
alone and hasn’t been fed for days.

Jeremy asks Hank to check his
house but the spare key blew away.

18.
You might mix up Uber updates
and hurricane news on an infinite
scroll of smartphone screens
wherever your feet are clicking
heels from. Liz is arriving soon.
Kathy left an hour ago. Barb
and Henni keep picking different
states with a car full of cats and dogs.
It’s raining at the rest stops.

19.
In Jake and Holly’s housing
development the grounds crew
cuts down all the coconuts.

At first they feel despair. How can
anything so beautiful need disarming–
the twisting waist of Venus as subtle
as a bomb blast. Then they stock
their cabinets with water.

20.
Men in towels stare at the flatscreen
and one says, “Good, it will spare Miami.”
Another, “Better off in The Everglades.”
I could see the 90 mile line between
the Southernmost Buoy and Havana Harbor.

Remember the time the mayor of Key West
water skied to Cuba?

21.
Track the path we had. You’ll see a scattered
set of lines, the impossible trajectories of you
and me. Pick a color seductive enough to turn eyes to fingertip traces, the small screen stares expanding to a fishnet mesh, the interlace of palms and river runs against an independent horizon toward now and later and forever ago.

If a butterfly turns to face the wind
where will her wings end up? All these
casts of beauty won’t last without losing
a forearm or languid neck crease.

22.
Each of us wonders at the parts of our life
we come back to find underwater. On the news there’s talk of flamingos. Someone in a zoo
locked pink feathers in shallow bathrooms.
The root of sore is soaring. Look at GPS dots to represent migrations; see the distances we fly.

23.
Someplace over the rainbow a butterfly
beats her wings and says there’s no place
like home. There’s no way home today.

24.
I gave my address to a girl
with a handful of postcards
and a sheet full of butterfly stamps.

What happens to the world
when there are no mailboxes left,
no return addresses to return to?

25.
Heather holed up in Virginia Beach.
Leo and Rob made Nashville, V
is taking selfies in Kissimmee,
and Sam and Lila wander Disney.
Jason is running for Mayor of
a town in Mississippi.

There is always forever. The fleeting
things are now.

Today I saw a rooster strut
and knew we were almost home.

A steam of engines, a stream of cars,
a caring love of distance and together,
there are definitions of survival beyond
the corrosive erosion of shore, just as
when we meet a cloud congeals curves
and sounds to congratulate as now.

There is always forever. The fleeting
things are now. Note the photo of the buoy,
now she’s undergone a facelift. Wherever
you are you lift your fingernail tips from
maps and look. The dot always says,
You Are Here.

26.
There’s no place. There’s no other
place to place us. There is no other
you or her or yesterday. Pick any name
you want for love and storms and home,

mouth those symbols into wind and whisper
their shape to the teleprompters glare. We
are almost always there, this in-progress
sculpture of surrender. There’s no place
else to go. There’s no place now, like home.

 


Kurt Cole Eidsvig is an artist and poet. His work has appeared in Hanging Loose, Slipstream, Borderlands, Main Street Rag, and other journals. 

Photograph by Craig Whitehead.

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