C.N.P Poetry 

  • Cathexis Northwest Press

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

through windows.

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

a thunderclap

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.