Monica Berlin




already scaling that roofline, their voices               
all timbre & resonance just now, nothing

distinctly like a word. They'll be aloft
throughout the day's heat, which rises

& keeps rising, which won't be anything
like ours, then a short break, then more

hours of more bend & haul, swelter—
like that only more. From any angle

they're all balance, poised on beams laid
down for footing, & from every angle

beautiful, hardness, their sharp edges &
sharper heave of near careless care. That

slope & sheathing, every valley, those hips
& ridge & rake & slope: they call it field of.



over, that sometime-sound between

even the walls of our quiet
rooms, that heartbeat.

Like repeating. Like pulse.
Where we wait staring out

I thought arson, a word I'd never
said aloud before & then said aloud

until not a word & you here, you
could hold a match to the debris, 

could help me burn off everything.
Today brought back close-to-the-dirt

flowers my mother would snip off
to gather up & tuck in shallow 

tumblers where they'd lean
far over. Brought back

my little boy being pulled from me,
his small toes tucked beneath

my ribs, & how he's still there still,
tugging the cage of my chest.

Because I don't know what to call
anything any more, how to stop
every thing from pulling away, arson.
The strike of a flint. Why not? It'd all go

up, be gone, then the skies would cover
with ash & then it would start to down, 

would turn to a kind of stone—
stone at our feet, stone filling

our mouths—& how days,
& everyone, would be grounded.



A remarkable phrase: the anatomy of a roof. A remarkable name: Eyjafjallajökull. A dear friend long ago roofed houses, years later practiced the pronounciation of that Icelandic wonder until he got it absolutely right. I was thinking, in part, of him when I wrote each of these. I was thinking about what things are called and how to say their names, and how sometimes we can study a whole new vocabulary and still not know how to say something.