The Doppler Effect by Erin Rodoni


On the sixth day the fire began to hawk
spectacle and risk like a circus
on the outskirts of town. Its black
megaphone projected a crackly waltz
that singed me to sleep and out
with sparks burred to my sleeves.
A wonder where a cough should be.
My house was safe so I wafted
to Main Street. Usually deserted
by eight, it bustled like an Italian piazza.
Boy-packs circled girl-packs. Drunk
college kids, home for the summer, collapsed
on benches wrapped around each other
like beautiful car wrecks. I found my friend
who lost everything swinging alone
in our outgrown playground, gorgeous
in her despair. The smoke seemed to live
in her hair the way rain lives in clouds.
We pumped until swings groaned
like trees in the throat of flame.
The scent of the whole forest released
inside me like a lover and the unclaimed
damage I stored in the dark of my body
flickered. I thought I’d been spared
too much. Even now, when friends
knock on my stable door, scorched
refugees from some disastrous affair,
part of me still wants to sneak inside
their evacuated nest, dance on their living
room rugs as the music of embers
chews toward me like mice.
To pirate the art on the walls
as it curls. That night, at the height
of the swing’s arc my eyes bit down
on those burning childhood homes,
a god-bright gash in my lids. With distance
it’s shifted from blinding to merely
the smooth red of scarred skin. Like
the cesarean that hammocks my hips.
A sort of half-smile, tightlipped.

Erin Rodoni’s poems have appeared or will appear in Best New Poets 2014, Colorado Review, Verse Daily, Chautauqua, Cumberland River Review, and others. She won a 2013 Intro Journals Award from AWP. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and 2 year old daughter.