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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

What to Say; Escaping a Tsunami

By: J.B. Hill

What to Say

When I say, “How are you?”

I don’t know what that means.

A person who says such a thing

could be worried, curious, benign.

No one knows.

What if I say,

“Let me know if you need anything.”

That would not be better.

Asking you to work out

pie or pot or primroses in the afternoon

will not get you out of bed,

off the floor,


And if I say, “What do you need today? Right now?”

That’s a little better, I suppose.

But not much. Because I know that


is as hard as climbing a slick boulder

on your knees

in the rain

while shot in the gut.

So, no. I won’t do that.

I won’t ask you any questions.

But I’ll stand at your door

with a lasagna and

hibiscus and mint iced tea

I’ll text you:

I’m here. I can stay or go. I’ll wait.

I have an ammonite

in my pocket

I brought just for you.

Also, we can watch

that dragon movie.

Or not.

Way down the road,

next to the lake, during the

orange, pink, blue time of day,

you’ll remember who you are.

A ladybug will fall from the sky

onto your nose and stay with you

for twenty-two seconds.

You’ll look in the direction

where it flew

and see the low hung moon

chase away the sun.

I’ll say that.

Escaping a Tsunami

How can I let go of you now?

You've seen my panic-stricken face.

You know the sharp stone

that vibrates in my belly.

I don't know

where it came from

but you have one too.

I dream of scooping out the rock

from my body

like an avocado pit.

I carve it into a bookend

and offer to do yours.

The pain in our guts could be

bookends shaped like

funny monkeys covering their eyes.

They each have a fez

and wicked little smiles.

I see the books of life.

"Don't read these books,"

the monkeys say.

I invite you over

and point to a strange book

called Escaping a Tsunami.

We scratch our heads

and talk about the title

and what it means

and if we could.

We sit a long time

discussing whether we should

pick up the book and read it,

despite the warnings.

You say, "Yes."

Inside there is one word—


and hundreds of drawings of

sweeping bits of landscapes

and a beacon of light

on a mysterious mountaintop

painted in gold—

dozens of pages filled with tree roots,

twisted and gorgeous,

thirsty and thrilling.


"Is that real gold?" I ask.

"Are these real places?" you ask.

We can barely make out the world

in this strange book

that tells us to go.

It is a map that shows a way out of terror.

In my head, I say I’m not sure what love is anymore. “I do,” you say out loud. We wish ourselves, away, away, away.


J.B. Hill earned a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. Her recent poetry and short stories have been published, and are forthcoming, in the San Antonio Review, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, The Dillydoun Review, Coastal Shelf Literary Journal, Funicular Magazine, Bridge Eight Literary Magazine, and Wild Roof Journal. Hill has also been a featured storyteller and poet for organizations including Hearsay Poetry, Testify, The Living Room, and The Story Department. She has worked as a reporter in Boston, a screenplay analyst in Los Angeles, and a freelance writer and editor in Austin. Hill is a devoted outdoor, cold-water swimmer, amateur naturalist, and textile artist. You can find her at, on Instagram (@ideamakerupper), and on Facebook ( @jbhillwriter).


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