Chloé Firetto-Toomey

Smokestacks

after Rachel McKibbens


Resilience is a callous on the balls of my mother’s feet.

There she goes walking through small stone fires,

and blood-songs, rising like angel ash and smokestacks.

She knows how to fall forward, thumb the scale.


I don’t want to know about my stepfather’s defeat,

how he ambles to the forest’s edge

admires the river’s dark mouth

longs to become the mist rising from the water.



Just like that

after Richard Blanco


You fell into a hole by the riverbank, your weak ankle twisting as it does and

you plummet on your way across the construction site to your Samurai,

splitting your head on rocks, calcified artifacts, I fear. I won’t know for sure

until after nightfall, perhaps not until the morning, when your body

will be discovered by the chatty backhoe driver.


You’re late coming home from work, you texted to say you probably would,

but the news has begun and the final throws of light ignite the western wall.

Meatloaf cools on the countertop, potatoes smashed—here

your contour does the dishes, and I won’t care if you leave the plug clogged,

the sponge sodden, litter box un-scooped.


The active shooter is to blame. The employee you fired returns the day

you neglect to bring your gun — shoots you in the back with a rifle

from his car parked in the far corner of the lot. You fall like the colosseum.

How will I live without you? The other archeologists will need therapy.


Likely an accident on the 836—I’ve told you that postage stamp vehicle doesn’t

take corners well. It somersaults the bypass — doors and roof helicopter on impact.

How will I tell your parents? They’ll see it on the news, the small fires, your shovels

and dirt-screens in the road. I’ll need an instruction manual to relearn how to inhale,

how to walk through the door and sit on this couch which houses your imprint beside me.


On the news, a Ukrainian widow sobs. She blames herself for not begging hard enough

the Russian soldiers who slit her husband’s throat. She recounts her husband’s pale hands,

how his shirt had been clean. What mothers could raise such men?

I feel our unborn son knock uterine walls—how will I raise him without you?


Tears roll like heads down the hills of my cheeks, watering the boneyards of dead

husbands.

Then just like that your key turns the door; light appears.



Practicing Recovery in Miami Beach

after Gustavo Hernandez


Here’s the balcony that is sometimes an exoskeleton,

rimmed with butterfly bush, small palms and a desert rose;

Alan’s archeological exhibit: wood-worn screen mounted to the white deco stone

within which sits cat, raccoon, and ibis skulls, a small conch shell.


Here is the plexus of light pummeling the perennials. The mahogany carved head

an elogoi in the cut shadows of the scissor-leafed pineapple, the pot with the rescued

cypress tree, guppies in the shallow water monitoring root-systems.

This morning, an ibis grasped and wobbled the power line beyond the balcony’s edge.


The white eggs hatched caterpillars that disappeared and shrunk after defoliating

the only wildflower weed it hungered. One remains calcified on a bare bulb as though it died waiting for the bloom. You need to get out of the apartment, my husband says. So I

walk

three blocks east to the ocean. The wildflower seeds I gave my neighbor


sprout the backstreet lots; and along the terrace is a taco and tequila bar,

the Quickie-Mart we renamed Stabby-Mart after a fatal altercation last winter.

Here latin jazz, hip-hop and salsa, reggaeton shakes car stereos.

Even the asphalt jives in the heat. Across the sea


is my mother’s country: home of Marmite and Quavers, garlic frying on frosty nights;

drum and base and cocktail bars along cold streets glossed with rain. Eggshell clouds breaking beyond the elms. Here, I ghost the palms. There, I glint the hills. Always, an

atom splits.

I am trying to connect. I am trying to be a suspension bridge. Unmoor this anchor from my chest.

 

Chloé Firetto-Toomey is a British-American poet and essayist living in Miami Beach. She has an MFA degree from Florida International University and currently serves as an author's assistant to Presidential Inaugural poet, Richard Blanco. Her most recent chapbook of poems, Little Cauliflower, was published in 2019 by Dancing Girl Press. A Pushcart Prize nominee, and recipient of the 2017 Christopher F. Kelly Award for Poetry, and the 2020 Scotti Merrill Memorial Award in Poetry, you can find her poems, essays, and short stories at poets.org, SWIMM, december, Tupelo Quarterly, The Offing, among others. Learn more at chloefirettotoomey.com.