Eliza Brewer

Still Fire

Stranded in that compact Nissan

on the way to Wednesday night

bible study,

she realized all the ways

she’d failed at raising children

in mud country.

Water rose to my neck — 

her tallest baby, as I gathered up

the soaked

fabric of my sister, her smallest. 

Miraculously, no one cried.

We sat calmly

and watched the water rise

to the windows, listened to our

four-door scream

like it knew something awful

that we weren’t yet privy to.

And in

that moment, stranded by an Old Testament flood 

in that goddamn hideous purple Nissan

she wondered

why she never taught

her children that the thing

separating

the trees that live and the

trees that die when a forest becomes 

swampland

is not toughness of

bark or strength of root

but of

porousness, of willingness to take in the

muck that would have otherwise fermented

it entirely. 

That’s all a wetland is really —

tree soup and the dregs of

what refused

to dissolve into it. That time, we were 

lucky enough to have been the dregs.

Wading

through waist and shoulder deep water,

clawing our way

into

the church building. Sanctuary. 

She laughed with the other soaked

mammas.

Her voice cracked as she recounted

how easily her family could have been electrocuted —

still

laughing as though she were the living kind of tree.

As though she hadn’t been hardened beyond repair.

Today

the water recedes and herons make new

homes in old wetlands to the East and

my

mamma no longer acts as though it wasn’t

her resolve that killed her. It’s a beach day and the

breeze

only blows hot here. It riles up the sand which

scrapes against our faces, sandpapering

sunburns.

If you look close enough, you can see it ripping off

her bark and casting her bits to the wind but 

only

if you look closely. Otherwise, all you’ll see is a woman

who gathers a sea sponge that’s washed up

ripping

it into four equal pieces to give

to her children. She tells them 

not to worry.

 

Eliza is a poet and essayist from Baytown, Texas. She is a sophomore studying English and
Philosophy at Amherst College. Her work has appeared in Glass Mountain and Circus and she
has read at the Five College Poetry Festival and at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

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