Beauty—Did You Miss it

by JF Upjohn

Trauma is your baby, don’t hand it to me like some hot
potato at the county fair. Sure, I can raise the scorch, breathe
memory fumes and the baby wail, recall with all senses open
those fist pairs’ vain pounding on the vast window viewing
meadows over flames—

O hurl that Sony, hero father! Grunt and smash that picture
pane to shattered waterfalls. We duck through portal’s jagged
form, crunch our roof glass soles, gulp air in the big crisp
night, scream on that roof to sleeping streets as flames devil-tongue
over gutters—

Scream and my toes at the edge like a dive toward blue air, my
feet get hotter and I am below in that sunroom, as if twice
existing, down where mother read us flat books beneath
butterflies pinned under glass flattening frames. Butterflies blacken,
tiny feet, screams—would the roof fall in?

Smoke capsuled the house. So, sure. We could have and almost, in
four minutes more, declared firemen after. But why stop there at
conditional and almost?

O the neighbors! As if grapes-of-wrathing to some clearer
coastline, wheeled car onto yard, bumped over rocks, crushed
dreadful forsythia (my daily to cut), mattress tilted on car-top—

We jumped! Scattered that night to neighbors’ beds and my scalp
full of shards and coughing up nothing, while home’s walls bled to bark,
and days and days moving, new schools, new walls, and all we lost
and left behind and so on, so on. I remember it all and can scorch
that potato, make those butterflies screech, but O—

Did you hear, on that roof, in that dark, before mattress, before
jump, those pops and pows—they hurled fiery triangles into the night!
Sudden molten shapes somersaulting tip over tail, lit mums in the night,
they fell into yard’s black hedge, set the bushes to wailing, did
you hear? Did you see the triangles? If not, where were you facing?

Your trauma-clutched recall is a dim tarp. Intended to suffocate fear
it invokes, celebrates your suffocation. You seized four, could have,
almost—no amulet, mere petrified glass now molded to your fist.
Why insist on a memory that memes only anguish? Unconfiscate
yourself, loosen your grip—

We lived! Torn hands, pierced feet, charred lungs proved life, then
proofs healed. What shadows block your view of beauty? Trauma
is a depthless brittle block. Can you put down your mind-hardened
shard? Let wonder find your palm? Fear. Of course I recall. In the color
and light, mine failed to adhere, for moments at least—only awe.

For JF Upjohn, beauty and its guises are the answer to most, if not all, of life’s conundrums. She splits time between the North Carolina mountains and Brooklyn, New York.