Once you are dead, you are nothing. - Graffiti from the House of the Centenary, Pompeii
Hayley holds a fox skull up to her face, scattered tan hairs
escape around the fissures in the animal bone—
rotting peach-white, yellowing like the receipts at Rice Bowl
where the grease is so thick, it's in the fibers
of the paper and our skin. We always ask for extra
bamboo stalks in our stir fry, burrow through cartons of fried rice with bits of egg,
because, your eyes will soon be sparking,
keep them open; 1, 2, 5, 22, 30. We bury the fox
beside the train tracks, wrap him in our holy airs
press the mound over and mark it with crossed chopsticks.
Once, from our front porch overlooking the tracks,
when we smoked to look drowsy and long
like Marlene Dietrich, we watched a thunderstorm gather, amethyst lightning
glinting against freight cars
soaring by names painted with graffiti—Wings, Snow, Hour,
Glass, Echo. We kept the smoke only in our mouths,
with gentle taps to drop away the ash.
Hayley told me she used to tear out her eyelashes
when her dad ran off with the housekeeper;
I like to think of nine-year old Hayley wading around in the creeks behind her house,
eyelids bare, searching for teeth
scattered to and fro in the stream—discoveries precious
like the ruins of Pompeii. On Sunday,
we collected plants for the porch from the local nursery:
young red anthuriums, yellow succulents, strawberry buds.
We stood in a garden cabana filled with wind chimes
as the stormy sky picked up around us, our arms full of narcissus bulbs,
pebbles, pots and plants, and the obsidian chimes
plinked against each other and our shoulders. I like to think
that some day Vesuvius will erupt and capture us
with hot ash in our last gestures—writhing for air,
just as we sat on the front porch of our Spanish galleon
by the light of a lunar eclipse. From the bow our ship,
we watch the moonflowers finally unfold and the trains streak by,
crushing all of our pennies on the tracks into one.
A journal of narrative writing.
Vanitas, Burying a Fox