Afternoon Heat Wave, Northern California:
Lament for the Gulf Coast

Here, heat steals in—no air conditioning, no
centralized hollows snaking cold through the house.  Dry air
scratches like shark skin rubbed wrong.
Late roses turn, flicker.  Back home, I spilled water over the old table, droplets caught in grooves,
worm holes, hidden ruptures bloating wood, eating sealant.
Stuffed animals on the floor went sour.  Water swelled us all.
Back home, it rained a beat-down rain, slapping fat clay hands.  Here, cerulean above—windows wide,
fans and cross-currents, nothing broken-hearted, no howling
or slush of gutters flash-flooded, cars stalling, yelling
at the drive-thru order box with one window slit— hair, cheek, arm, shirt, wet like your body tongue-strummed.
Here, bright breathy birch-whisper, roses deadheaded before
they’ve come to moldy flush, snapped stalks cauterized
and peppery—no black spot, no aphids, no thumb-thick worms  to mush, stretch, finger, snarl a stalk.  None of the ugly
or the wanting, the hungry.  Here, this clean garden.
Back home, you.  Back home, the loss of you.
Here, no before or after.  Bougainvillea froths  across the fence, hydrangeas head-big and fuchsia.
I want to set a fire or pee brown spots
in the yard, passing through with the lug of another home
on these greedy ankles.  It must be I am lonesome again for mosquitoes and other hellish creatures come up
from the primordial flames.  I can only wait for water,
hold moisture like the cumulus clouds I can’t find here.
But here—home is a false front and dichotomy, no guide back. For everywhere I smell ocean.  Everywhere, the salt layer.
Gulls eat bone-damp crumbs, bougainvillea thorns
out eyes, and everywhere—everywhere the dead cry.
How can I tell one from the other?

Author: Kate Bolton Bonnici