by Bob Watts


Eyes turned from the bruise of sallow fire
where stone still smoldered down to flakes
the wind could swirl across the flat
or lift to dust their mountain refuge
with the dark and delicate remains
of all they couldn’t leave behind,
he crept to her.  From higher ground,
the plain looked smooth, a plate of thick,
black glass on which she seemed the last
light left against the spread of darkness.
But this close he could see the perfect
fury of the hand that had shattered
the ground beneath her feet and smeared
the city’s dead across her face.


The nights his daughters came to him,
faceless in the play of fire-thrown shadow,
he told himself he didn’t know
this flesh so much like hers he had
to rise to it.  If he had still
believed in mercy, he’d have prayed
they’d both be barren as the plain
broken beneath its mound of ash.
In his joyless coming he could feel
seeds of destruction great as God
had ever sown, sure as the salt
of her lips lingering on his,
his tongue mixing the residue
of death, the savor of desire.

BOB WATTS is an Assistant Professor in English/Creative Writing at Lehigh University. His first collection, Past Providence (David Robert Books, February 2005), won the 2004 Stanzas Prize from David Robert Books, and his poems have been published in Poetry, The Paris Review, and reDivider, among other journals. He was, with his wife, the fiction writer Stephanie Powell Watts, a founding co-editor of Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts.