We freed balloons, once, at a vigil—
a hundred foil doves and latex pearls
inked with the names of our newly dead.
I watched them leave Earth, not thinking
they’d reappear in a hawksbill’s throat
or leak helium into smog so leaden
newsmen use words like airpocalypse. I don’t
mean a dove-shaded sky, how its smother
tightens windpipes like a knotted string,
when I say choke. I mean the pleasure’s
in escaping the threat: a man’s hand on my neck,
his breath-slowing grip. Gaze aloft, mouth agasp
in rapture as in grief, I’m morbidly aware
of the air between us—this strange whole we’ve made.
The 2020 El Dorado fire, which burned 23,000 acres of California wildland, was
started by a pyrotechnic device used at a gender reveal.
This air swathing Earth won’t heal the hole
I float through living below. Everyday
waves convey news to suffuse our silence:
lawmen are blinding their body politic
with cloudlets of ashen mist. Lethal agents
seem to lurk in every cough; exhaust
spits noxious gas into smog. I fill my lungs
with inhaler spray and fumes my mask can’t
catch; Beijing’s pupils are made to play outside
of flue stacks and brick kilns in plastic, air-
sealed tents. Spring plants leak a golden haze
as one father launches smoke bombs—baby
blue grenades oozing life’s most precious
surprise—that leave the forests scorching.
The occasion’s routine now: a forest scorched
to ash again. In the way a woodland outlives
its own cremation, I think of my womb—
florid blaze of undone life, its cyclic ache
now leaving me bleak another month.
I still can’t believe its inevitable
hell, like the Siberian wildfires
I’ve discovered from stock photos,
or a Serbian landfill’s million-ton pyre.
How much waste is padding shed, reddened
and readied for fire, by people like me,
always being sold another Always?
It’s all so chilling—the flame feels faraway
still, even this Glade flickering in my kitchen.
The Deepwater Horizon (BP) Oil Spill, amounting to less than a tenth of all
reported oil leaks, was named the worst ecological disaster in U.S. history.
I leave the Glade heating our kitchen
to smooth the curls you’ve called me to
tame with misted bristles and Eco Style.
Your hairline winds into an ebb tide’s shore
as I wipe its pearlescent film; beads of shea
and steam pool in the whorls of my thumb.
An ocean is on fire, now, as I brush
the edges of your face. Where I only want
beauty, I must see ignition, insat-
iable spill, littoral black sands sleeker
than the roots you dye as new silver breaks
the surface. My anxiety’s science
turns gel to waves to onyx waters swelling
the bodies of a thousand upturned fish.
after Nicole Sealey
Home. Late December, two thousand-twenty one.
Christmas dinner revives our country roots: greens,
stovetop cornbread, black eyed peas. Al Green’s
singing light my fire while I add green-
house turnips to my collard pot. A blue-green
glow flashes from the den’s TV—evergreen
snowscapes in commercials and weathermen’s green-
screen forecasts cut to more news: NASA just green-
lit the last leg of OMG—the Oceans Melting Green-
land mission—to map the last glaciers in God’s green
seas. My cousins rush in, bits of backyard green
staining their knees—to them, the world’s still green.
Then my aunt comes to cool the eye, keep our greens
from wilting, lifeless, while my fears grow peregrine.
Bees are disappearing by the billions each year—35% of pollinators now face
extinction, threatening food security and ecosystem stability worldwide.
I let go as you say it, then watch the bee
flee our window. What else can we do
but witness: faucet water bronzing, floodlines
cuffing city walls yards above the sea, babies
born near oil spills with half-formed limbs,
lights outblazing constellations. You were
hanging drapes: tip-toed, drilling around the pane,
when we heard its wings scrape behind our blinds.
Thermal means a curtain can hold in, or keep out,
any season’s heat. Freeing the bee I trapped inside
a cup, I must trust, can delay its end—if not storms
of acid sleet, or landmine blasts, or deserts growing
nothing. We wait until it’s gone so far we can’t see.
Kira Tucker is an artist from Memphis, Tennessee and a current MFA+MA candidate in poetry at Northwestern University. Kira’s work appears in Tupelo Quarterly, The Spectacle, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the Hurston/Wright Foundation and Tin House.