Julie Weiss (she/her) is the author of The Places We Empty, her debut collection published by Kelsay Books. She was a finalist in Alexandria Quarterly´s First Line Poetry Series, a finalist for The Magnolia Review´s Ink Award, and she was shortlisted for Kissing Dynamite´s 2021 Microchap Series. A two-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her recent work appears in Sheila-Na-Gig, Orange Blossom Review, ONE ART: a journal of poetry, Sky Island Journal, and others. Originally from California, she lives in Spain with her wife and two young children.
A lone dog, her pant the hollow of bone,
digs through a mountain of ash in the space
where vegetables used to grow, searching
for scraps of anything cool enough to appease
the beast in her belly. The air through which
she hobbles is too thick with gases to detect
the scent of the family that once fed her.
Somewhere below her paws, a swing set
shrouded in hardened lava, the weak creak
of its pleas echoing the voices of the children
who had soared and twirled under its frame
for generations. In the wide-open space
where a wall-to-wall bookshelf once stood,
a rectangle of absence sags, as if the lives
of the people in the photo albums that lined
its former shelf had disintegrated in the blaze, too.
We’re watching all of this from the cool safety
of the mainland, how civilization crumbles,
day after day, under Cumbre Vieja’s ravenous
tongues. My son quakes in and out of the kitchen,
eyes aglow, hands the flare of volcanos,
every word out of his mouth an eruption.
His mind has filled the crater with popcorn,
buttery puffs tumbling down slopes,
over cliffs, into the ocean where holiday-goers
once went sailing and scuba diving.
He blasts out of the room again before
I can pour kisses on his fire, before
I can tell him this is not a Sunday afternoon
movie bubbling with special effects to kindle
our senses, but how would I explain away
the baseball cap and backpack clad tourists
spreading across the island, binoculars in hand,
oohhs and aahhs oozing down their chins?
How to portray to a four-year old
the family splayed on the cement floor
of someone else’s garage, listless as rocks,
the young boy whose school collapsed
whimpering in his mother’s embrace.
Or the man staggering across his family’s
plantation, lugging a bunch of blackened
bananas over his shoulder like a sack full
of sorrows, just the way I carry my child
when he’s heavy with sleep.
Or the pick-up truck piled with mattresses
and the woman riding on top, her expression
falling in embers as though emulating
the buildings around her, while history stuffs
its belly, not with popcorn, son, but with memories
of an island lost down the throat of a beast.