by Alyssandra Tobin
My father braided dried grass into
a word and left it on the back porch.
Alpenglow, it said.
That light on the tips of the mountains when
the sun starts going down. He said
I saw it every night we were climbing.
Summer is when it is strongest.
The sun bleeds foxfire from the leaves
in heatless drops of smoke. On Denali
I got caught in it, and now I carry it.
When he writes it in charcoal
I smell the sky like a lake on fire in
the middle of dark green New Jersey,
the way it tastes like a marshmallow
Swelling to burst inside a bonfire, toasted
brown edges and liquid sugar guts.
When he carves it into the soft wood of the
picnic table I see the growing blanket of deep red
dividing dark from light up the sides of the Green Mountains,
the slash and the burn. The way light flares
and flickers out, every treetop wearing
the color that kills them – the warm orange
of neon highway signs that count the
number of people who’ve died that year,
driving too fast after the mountains shed their red robes,
after the color that made me whisper his word went quiet.
When the light touches me it is like a finger
running down my spine – dark, it glows.