by Caroline Harris

I grew up in a town with crumbling houses
of burning coals and crimson embers. The avenue
where I lived always flooded during summer storms.
Even the picket fences and closed gates shook, water
like moonshine under an iridescent sky. The children were still
as the velvet dreams of sugarcane chapels made their mark.

I stare at my palms now, trace the pathways and birthmarks
of my tired body, visit the worn and decaying houses
of my hometown, rusting prisms frozen still
against the charred alphabets of a broken avenue.
The great constellations never prepared me for the water,
the floods of static words, harrowing breaths, a subtle storm.

I wish freight trains carried mermaids and pomegranate seeds, storms
of stardust, tangerine lips, meadow tongues. Maybe then the marks
this town leaves behind would be of crayon worlds watered
down, of playdoh, folded juice boxes and smiles, of houses
comprised of dolls and dolls comprised of houses and avenues
of the kind of happy that isn’t lost in translation, of nights still.

I want to be “Cleopatra in a past life”. The girl with marble eyes still
lined with dust. The girl with feet clapping in Morse Code, causing storms
with a bat of the eye, a slope of the neck. Then maybe the avenues
of my forearms could stretch forth and punctuate this ghost town, my mark
one of patterns torn and blank stares worn and the houses,
the kind of beautiful people write about: Vermeer light, thin as water.

I would wrap the town in sapphire wings, let it smell of rosewater
infused with salt, jasmine flower, mustard yellow roots, still
in the sign language of nighttime houses
bowing under the rich weight of memories. I would storm
through the aging husks of hypotheticals, let these times mark
the beginning of all times. Fireflies would fill the lamplights on burning avenues.

Ya’aburnee, Ya’aburnee, You bury me, these avenues
and city streets can only stay quiet for so long before the water
runs dry, before the dusk sets in, before the sun falls. Their mark
is in the lizards with quivering throats and the mesas raw, still
singing their mourning songs, the houses
trembling, lifted in the summer’s thousandth storm.

Bronze rain falls from the salmon skies. The urban paradise still
waits for me, cobras on cement balconies. The storm
tramples and roars, torpedoes on concrete sidewalks. I am home.