Bruised Lanterns



She was trying until summer
settled into all her territories
like a fat, placid castle.

The flowers wilted into dust,
and shade became just
a darker type of heat.

The air clung to the valley
like a panting dog, the air
smelled wet and close and stuck,
chalky, to her skin.

Her life seemed to fill up
with things beyond her control:

the roof leaking after the big
June storm, the needy phone calls
of her broken-legged best friend,
her eighth and ninth men leaving
in such quick succession that
she could barely remember
which syllables to mourn.

Then the air started to shake
and pop, thunder or gunshot,
the air worked like a dull blade
in an old wound, the air measured
the hot sticky shape of her,

and whenever she moved
the air carried that shape
around her so she rattled
like a lung drowning,
like a spent radiator, and
that kind of air can’t last.

When rain broke through,
and the air shook itself clean,
she stood panting
like a madwoman
in her garden, flooded with

the smell of wet earth rising
and magnolia sending down
its heady citrus, the last
lit clouds at dusk strung
like bruised lanterns
across the sky.

Her hair came down,
its own storm breaking,
and the garden went wild.


Ann V. DeVilbiss holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Indiana University and works in publishing on production and editing. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband and their cat.

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