Spring blossoms blow about,
then cover one lawn—
a snowy coat
that makes time skip to keep up:
So quickly the April day went cold
as I think in all directions
of winter, of fields,
of the countryside abandoned
as cities filled
with hope, then less,
and less than less—
this suburban lawn
my green winter tea, steeped.
The Fire Setters
Years later I listen to the madame reminisce on that house fire.
She say first thing she heard with closed eyes
was rocks banging the porch,
then her mama stumbling all over.
Caught-fire hair, the next breath;
her granny’s bosom pressed, heavy with the scent of vanilla.
I recall just knowing what this had come to
by counting who was in the parlor—
carried in first from the smoky back rooms,
child rolled back like fish belly.
And the man, he there,
just dithering over madame’s burned hair.
That only one small trouble,
I like to tell him.
What shook me was Myrna—nowhere to be found,
and I’d watched how she’d nursed Baby-Boy
like something owned.
But that night she’d slid off with the fire setters.
I ask myself what the difference was anyway,
me huddled on the inside
while the house come crinkling down.
Outside or in, we pass under the same name:
bunch of wild niggers.
After Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea
—Katherine Soniat’s fourth poetry collection, Alluvial, is out from Bucknell University Press. Her poetry has recently appeared in Virginia Quarterly, Gettysburg Review, Amicus, Denver Quarterly, and Boulevard. A recipient of two Virginia Commission for the Arts Fellowships and the William Faulkner Award for Poetry, she is an associated professor at Virginia Tech and lives in Blacksburg.