6.16 / December 2011

Two Poems

The Day Before Yesterday

listen to this poem

It didn’t take much
to rattle our small world.

A dependable sun each morning,
the people we knew.

When we woke in our groggy beds
the sky was gone, obliterated

in humid August fog.
We went walking anyway.

Heart Pine barn hulking
over our shoulders.

Mist a bell-mute, deadened
what we might have said.

The sudden appearance of horses,
shag-maned, enormous teeth,

amuck in the tobacco field.
A break in the fence-

sharp tangle of wire and wood. Tire-rut.
Milkweed and cocklebur pillaged.

Quiet there, except the distant engine
of a bi-plane, the swoop of whippoorwill.

What we’d learn was saved
from us for then, as we looked up

to silver wing,
felt the cool relief of rain.

Drop Zone

listen to this poem

In my hand, a humming, sun-warmed feijoa,
in a town famous for rainbows. Today,
everything is brilliant, water-

a killer blue. Volcano unveiled
at full height, shadows bold, doubling us.
At a market by the lake,

everything is fiercely alive: just-fallen starfruit,
blood oranges, cassava the size of limbs.
I buy chess pie, tomatoes, beetroot.

When the phone rings, a voice from miles
away tells me You should sit down for this, so fast
when he hit the bridge pylon, it was instant

We walk home along the lake, holding star-
fruit. In the morning, we go skydiving.
Back home they are singing, you are

buried in a closed casket. From this height,
the volcano says nothing. When we throw
ourselves out, the lake’s smooth belly flies

up to meet us, closer and closer,
so fast at terminal velocity,
these seconds before the parachute opens.

I wonder if I am somehow the closest
to you now, alive like this, the last thing
you saw-the water as it reached you.

for Alex

Mary Kovaleski Byrnes is a lecturer in the First Year Writing Program at Emerson College where she recently received her MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including the Minnetonka Review, the Squaw Valley Review, Poets & Artists, and Silk Road, and her travel writing has appeared on Boston.com’s Passport. She lives in Cambridge, MA.
6.16 / December 2011