Surefire; Useless, Rendered Things; The Uses of Burning
By: Johanna Carissa Fernandez
Regret is a dark pool.
A crisp leaf touches
the water, ripples silken
the veins. Bodies encased
in sharp cold. Then illness,
surefire as sunrise,
new couples playing
house. The first test,
easy as tossing spare eggs
We leave tomorrow;
don’t bother to uncover
the furniture. We save
white lace from wine stains
though some had already
been there before we came,
before we thought to curtail
expectations. On the ceiling,
I saw a seahorse, French bread,
and Saturn. They say we’re lucky
to see its rings in their mid-life,
gravity dismantling them like rain.
Useless, Rendered Things
I’m sitting with my feelings
under the too-bright street light
turning the balcony hospital-white.
Or more like interrogation-room white
because now my attention is so sharp
I can see the fire ants marching on a power line.
It felt appropriate to light a cigarette.
In the corner, I see the dumbbells
that’d been missing for months
(So that’s where they’ve been all this time).
It takes resolve to form a habit,
and I guess that hasn’t been found yet.
Perhaps never, in the case of working out.
I’m rummaging through my feelings.
Some are many-legged and weightless,
their only job to follow antecedents.
Others are dense and fixed, like cast iron,
owned by dust. I place my live stump on
the ashtray my mother bought years ago,
when she finally accepted that my smoking
is non-negotiable. It has this push-down
mechanism: press a button and the stick
slides down an airless trap. I thought,
what a nifty thing. The extinguishing
is imagined, but you don’t have to witness
a smothering to know that it does the job.
The Uses of Burning
The freeway flooded with light. Through the car window,
rice fields gush backwards, power lines striping the sky.
I used to find peace in this repeating landscape, though plumes
disturb the scenery. Closer to dusk, more of them would appear.
But not a cause for alarm, this afternoon ritual among townsfolk
of burning heaps of dried leaves and branches they’d gathered
from the yard. Imagine a farmer’s wife at the base of the smoke,
sipping 3-in-1 coffee while watching the blaze crackle along
with static from an old transistor. They say the fumes
repel mosquitoes and “wake” the trees into bearing more fruit.
Others blow the smoke on roosters’ faces to rile them up before
a sabong, before another fowl is clawed to death. The game
is legal in the country, though cockpits regularly get raided.
I’ve read somewhere that one mayor once unleashed dogs
in an offender’s yard. The cockpits were closed for months
and everyone started waking late as no rooster crowed
to welcome the morning. But life goes on. A girl
out on some field is pulling abaca fibers when suddenly
so loud, as though building up in the clouds for twelve
straight years. Hot pebbles beneath her skin, the warmth
flowing out of her belly turning the soil black.
Smoke rises from that farm. It would be seen by many.