Piney Falls and Chattanooga, Tennessee

Measure the heart by obsession, and the tablets click
in their plastic sheath like a shaker

of salt, crystals fused to small stones
absent the rice grains that would have held

back the weeping as attendant to southern air
as water falling through rock we traced

to a mint-green pool’s back-story grotto sculpted
to snowy scallops, pale husks tossed

entirely of spray. Ice, you’d say, is a giving
up of energy; to crystal is to displace

a mineral dissolve best crossed by trusting the rawest,
unslicked rocks topping that afternoons

half-frozen falls before your shift pieced with the passing
of prescription papers fingerprinted and spored

with viruses’ spiny stars, night a soup of swamp-lunged children
and a man drunk to the bone who, having stitched

his own ripped tongue with fishing line, leans
your counter to ask, this will be awright,

right?; night-rollers who troll your store’s fluorescent aisles
for Sudafed and watch batteries, matches and fingernail

polish remover, passing the wandering afflicted
shaking off voices amplified by hollow, the silvered foil hat

of wakefulness; the simpatico adding the zeroes
of their own hand to tens on scrips for Oxy you refuse

to fill, thus troubling their ascent to that extended
blessing—O pills to parachute, O to dive that high

my own once-husband sought in a free-based implosion
to a sinkhole of blacked foil and glass pipes and stolen

checks, my mother’s signature steadied in his adrenaline-
laced hand, shattered car-window glass glistening our alley’s

graveled snow, crook of a missing tire iron
ghosting me still. Glitter beyond the body’s breadth, cliffs

whiskered with icicles, automatic glass doors folding
the drone of 3 a.m. for the man in black-face and hoodie

who'd jump your counter, knife in hand, for what he would first
have you live for—to open the narc safe, portal

to that sustained sustenance, O perpetual
plunge. What persists is less

the print he’d left in his own shoe polish-smeared face
than his fingertips stain, the drop of soiled sweat tracing

his cheek’s descent like the bead of melt already grooving that day’s
translucent heart, a hollowed pin-prick sunlit to a mercury globe

tonguing its way down the shelved stone wall bracketed
with daggered racks of moony glass, gravity-pooling to the path

deeply sheeted to shadowboxes of pine needle and fern
and sweetgum leaf, glazed skin delicately grained and insect-whorled

as the human palm, as yours I worried
that afternoon into mine. In review, the cameras

stagger event: the knife ratcheting toward your chest skips
to the man’s spectacular crashing the thickly paned

door, but when not where is the heart
of dissolve; each body of glass tunes to its own

one-note shatter, your face held there
in fracture, in stone a spring days warming can vanish—stalactites

that for now narrow, swell, narrow, clocking the hours’ shift
freeze to melt to freeze along the banded fault lines

of history where a sweetgum rises from the thinnest outcrop
rooted with icicles like weighted ropes pulled taut

from a bridge, time progressing in freefall as one camera skips
to the next, to the man stumbling into the night, the dropped knife

skittering the iced pavement and in that blackened air, what I’ve held
on for—gauze of your glittering breath, O

collateral grace.

Photo: Paul O'Mara