I. The Circus Makes Its Way into Town

No rain for weeks, cows hold
their milk within covetous udders.

The river lies still as an infant
floating in formaldehyde,

schools of harried shad shuddering
on pebbled banks, a rank

reminder of August coming.
Two nights ago fireworks lit up

parched tobacco fields, the sweet
smell reaching for the towns, listing

into factory windows where women
working the cemetery shift ducked

their tongues, spoke of children
burning the whole city down.


II. Looking Up

We were sweating already,
our heads cocked like chickens

gaping at the rain, transfixed
by acrobats on high:

an entire family suspended
from a miniature porch swing.

Ir began like applause;
first one scream then a thunder

of animals and heat,
a sun rising above us

husking our skin, the backs
of children rippling like tide.


III. "It was like watching the gates of Hell open"

Looked down and saw my bones
peering our from burning flesh.

Saw my brother lit up
like night skies in Germany,

passing flames from pants to hands
to tousled hair. Went under.

Woke up buried in plaster.
Heard wheezing, crying, silence.

Asked for my sister Eleanor.
Watched the nurses turn away.