Exaltation in December
For Susan Savage
When suddenly the road in front of you collapses
into the froth of the Pacific,
the wind blows the tails of your coat,
and you think of your mother washing windows
always on the tips of her toes—
a sight on the threshold of being:
a harvest moon rising,
a brief, blissful blizzard,
a sidewalk breathing steam.
When the flowers blossom
into something a little more sinister—
thick petals that shed their color.
The distance is too great,
like the span of the canyon
that tears through the desert floor.
The ships dotting the horizon fade
into black before daybreak and you've
seen it before, in the eyes of wounded elk.
Heard it when your uncle holed himself up
in a Missouri cabin, peppered his memories
and salted his skull across the mantelpiece.
Felt it when your father fought for each breath
until you left the hospice—you came back to find
a bed of flesh and hair.
You remember the low rumble
of his chest, your face pressed
against it like the windowsill.
The streaks left on the glass were makeshift
arrangements of summer afternoons when
the river refused its bed and rose to meet the sky.
When we'd race down the hill on a radio-flyer
wagon and you would scream with excitement,
dirty hair flying like a bullet-riddled flag.
Or the times at the beach when the whole family
glowed of gold; you were digging in the sand,
rubbing it across pudgy cheeks with a grin.
I used to throw words at people
now I eat people's words
bleat less easily.
My mom feeds burgers to bulldogs
to children of all ages
and senior citizens.
She says Dad finds himself at work
there are six mirrors here
garage stays closed.
She doesn’t leave the door unlocked
just says sourful things
my teeth hurt at night.
School was almost over
the day the earth split.
The roast tasted metallic
as my parents passed spare words.
The footage played on television,
bodies projecting bluish on the profiles of the family.
As we tried to eat,
we tried not to look.
That weekend, my mother took me
to visit her sister, her headstone
next to one of those lost. My mother
spoke with his in hushed voices. I
overheard something about bullies,
other parents, guns. We drove home,
her hands soft on the wheel. Years later,
she called me on the phone, said our neighbor
was expelled from school for bringing
his father’s pistol. My tongue pushed against my teeth,
and I thought about the afternoons
we kids would meet in the cul-de-sac—
the water we shot from plastic arced terrible,
catching the red rays of the sun.
Nicholas Carlos Fuenzalida is an MFA poetry candidate at NYU, where he serves as layout editor for the Washington Square Review. He lives and works in New York.