drought catalogue

i.

smog bellies across the valley     petroleum smear
around a rim of sky     grip-smudged glass
pressed down     in ashy uneven light

the day stretches gray and yellow     what cool
there might have been at neon three a.m. has swallowed     
itself entire and     there is only heat

haze and dust and threat of wild fire     windows film over with grit     
the city grinding itself particulate     before new asphalt sets     

it is scored already     with the weave of tire treads    
print of a half-unfurled     paw shaped leaf 

ii.

heat hovers over packed dirt     our plants
are twisted     brown and small     their fruits stay small and hard     

a wild parrot picks through dry grass     its red eyemask swings     
scanning for anything edible     the trees
have sent it down empty

we wash our dishes over and over in the same dingy water     
pour it out into the yard     hope to help something
soften     sprout

iii.

we wake to the sound of rice being poured into a metal bowl
get out of bed to see the rain     but are mistaken     
desperate of drought     have dreamed it     

we whisper     conjecture together     
how many insects    are in the room     
in unswept corners     on the dog     
try to hear their hum

iv.

we drive to the monastery in Valyermo
a few strange fat drops     fall in the desert      
clouds hold in heat     the landscape     

hard against rain     troubles to grow only
scrub that calcifies     to spread-armed stones
as dry     as hollow-hearted      

the soil is sandy and cannot     
hold itself together     we buy a clay cross     
baked to keep from crumbling

crisp weeds rub against each other     cricket-leg
themselves to kindling     

v.

back over the ridge      of the Angeles Forest
I say postapocalyptic    

just apocalyptic you reply     bowl of the valley beneath us
sealed with smoke      one massive radiating coal     

I think the word caldera     cast iron pot     smoking red     
a voice assembles out of static     lists freeway closures

vi.

the house is covered in thin white ash
a bathroom window     left open
has breathed     a crescent moon
across the countertop     

you trace your fingers through it   
lift them for me to see      

a hot leaf-blower wind forms small cyclones
that shimmer     and are gone

vii.

you can tell there’s a fire     without looking
at the sky    it’s lit strange and stark     an artificial over-yellow 

shadows slant long and wrong    there’s too much black in them     
they’re too dark     it smells     of molding citrus     

hoarse with smoke     the dog is all on edge      
barks back at echoes     trembles
the heat     catches in our throats     when we talk 

about which freeway     the fire would need to jump
for us to pack the car     

conceive of ourselves     dimly     as prey     
in and out of sync     with a land that is hard     
that burns      and will not stay