by Ray Ball
after Joan Kane’s “Milk Black Carbon”
Start with imperatives.
Remember how you ran.
How you cowered under the table as liquid and solid vibrated.
What terrified and destroyed when the earth sought to shed its skin.
A friend tells you about cleaning up a shattered jar of caramel sauce in the dark.
She wore a headlamp in her modern kitchen.
Shards in the thick of sweetness.
A relic of your Camino cracks while your dog trains herself to shelter under the table—
hundreds of aftershocks as practice drills.
Boil the water.
Store a reserve in case.
Take comfort that you were not on an overpass as it fissured.
Or in the pool.
In other words, a tsunami in a concrete shell.
A baptism of wave after grinding wave.
Hold tight between the gathering of debris.
RAY BALL grew up in a house full of snakes. She is a history professor, a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, and an editor at Alaska Women Speak. Her chapbook Tithe of Salt came out with Louisiana Literature Press in the spring of 2019. She has recent publications in Amethyst Review, Cascadia Rising Review, Human/Kind Journal, and SWWIM Every Day.
Photo: “Japan Earthquake” by P K