Fall 2014, Volume 17

Poetry by Jordan Hartt

The Fragments of the Town of Sandstone, Utah, Drifting
Upward After the Bursting of the Smith Reservoir Dam


                                                               (the broken branches of elms)

            (the apricot-colored baby)

                                                          (pulped gladiolas)
   (hannah’s body: cottonwood-colored arms, legs       if only he’d never married anna-claire, she thinks)
                          (anna-claire already floating at the surface     her fractured cheekbones turned skyward like a sunflower                              blue eyes lifeless as a doll’s)                                                                                       
                                                                                   (hannah remembers
pulling aside the curtain from the top-floor room      remembers looking down on her husband and anna-claire     remembers how they stood on the bare, parched lawn  
how his fingers rested lightly on anna-claire’s waist) 

                                                                (pinyons drown in silty watery light)

                (a child’s doll ascends)

(streams of water purl upward      anna-claire’s apricot-colored baby flings reservoir water into the high-desert air        the baby’s giggle is contagious: even hannah’s cheekbones grow sore from laughing)                             

                                                     (anna-claire, jeremiah whispers in her ear, from beneath his scratchy white beard)

                                                 (the hardness of juniper berries)

                                                                                                                (jeremiah ascends
to the pulpit                  points his finger outward     he calls the names of the young
men who will be banished      jeremiah floats at the surface, wrapped in his heavy black prophet’s clothes, his cliffwhite beard lying matted against his weathered face)

              (the heat-struck gladiolas that once grew thick beneath the window)
      (the cottonwood leaves that float at the surface)

                                          (the limp, milk-colored goats that rise through the silt)

(sunlight never ascends, only descends: sunlight slants downward through and murky reservoir water)

                                      (this is how you tame your women, eluzai explains to the
young men gathered in the early morning heat, their starched shirtsleeves rolled to their elbows, sunlight the color of peaches lying on the worn grass        this is how you rule your household, he says, as malachi drags a limping dog from the shed   eluzai strikes the dog with a croquet mallet     bleats of pain     eluzai hands the mallet to jeremiah’s son mark)

                                                                                               (the great white trucks lie buried under the weight of water, lie at the bottom with two rooted white bodies of cottonwoods and the great houses the size of barns built to hold the blessings of wives and children)

               (the giggling apricot-colored baby flinging scoops of reservoir water upward)

(jeremiah, beard white as a sycamore, watches from the shade as mark swings slowly at the whiny mutt         more like a swinging bunt than a full swing         more like a
duty than a calling)

                                                                (wooden fencing, uprooted)

(sunflowers that had once burst upward from the blood-colored utah land     sunflowers that had once stood sentinel           sunflowers whose faces had once tracked the sun across the sky)

                     (a croquet mallet)

                                                (a sudden thunderstorm             mark huddles with anna-claire beneath an elm, her goosebumped upper arm cold in his fingers   the storm’ll let up, he whispers to her)

                                 (the dead rise, as well: the weight of the river on the soft soil lifts the early pioneers who’d left salt lake for this sanctuary of sandstone—the hollands, the youngmans, the johnsons, the earls    cherrywood boxes, lifted out of the ground, rise toward watery sunlight)

                       (mark holds anna-claire, her body knit to his, her lips the color of cold plums, her upper arm wrinkled with goosebumps like the feel of cantaloupe husk    the storm’ll let up, he whispers)


(bodies of dry corn shiver in the wind)

                                                        (jeremiah stands on top of the peak above sandstone, praying for their school not to be taken over by the utah authorities, by the hand of the beast, who goes out searching for whom he might devour, the united states government a great beast, their tiny community a light, a beacon, nestled under sandstone cliffs upon which jeremiah rises to seek covenant with the lord most high     praying        waiting for new words, new visions)

                     (if only he’d never married anna-claire, hannah thinks, ascending toward sunlight)

                                (truck’s getting low on gas: should fill her up soon, mark thinks, driving home from watching anna-claire through her window)

(the dog pleads as the boys step forward, as they strike her to prove their manliness, to prove their worth, to prove they should be allowed to stay     but there are too many of them, jeremiah knows, watch from the shade    there are too many for the number of young women)

                                      (juniper branches)
                                                                                       (sunlight bright in the elms     mark can feel his shaven neck reddening in the sun   the body being lowered into the darkness of the red earth      aboveground, his father already gazing at anna-claire)  

(there is sin, jeremiah shouts from the pulpit         there is sin in the midst of us     the sin of the young men who will not accept the wives chosen for them by the lord  indeed, there is sin in my very house)                          

                                                                        (elm branches)

(a plastic shovel)                                          
                                             (broken dishes)
                                                                       (tomato plants)

                  (the fat, happy apricot-colored baby)                                               

(hannah pulls aside the curtain and watches down through the window her husband jeremiah and anna-claire     jeremiah encircles anna-claire’s thin waist with his arm hannah watches her husband kiss anna-claire      hannah lets the curtain fall     hannah turns away and studies her aging face in the mirror     she scolds her wide hips     your face is too severe, she tells herself, touching the lines in her forehead      she squares her shoulders      she inhales, and holds her breath and lets go: there is household work to be done     hannah goes down the polished wooden stairs, her smile bright as the sun in the elms)

   (sandstone hills—uplifted and tilted sideways from noah’s flood, hannah explains to
her children—stand immobile as anna-claire’s baby throws reservoir water and mud and slippery minnows into the sky, the sun shining off water droplets like rainbows)

         (heatwilted gladiolas)   

                                           (anna-claire’s belly already swelling, hannah notices)

(the peach-colored, cottonwood-colored, apricot-colored bodies float upward like trout)

(mark strikes the crying dog with a croquet mallet    imagining his father, he strikes again    and again   and again     jeremiah watches contentedly from the shade   his son, in whom he is well-pleased)

             (hannah feels the weight of her husband her lord her master her beloved her jeremiah on top of her  yes  his slipperiness inside her  yes  his smell of straw and horse and motor oil and sun in his broomy white beard  yes  and she closes her eyes  yes  and she wants this moment forever  yes  and she gasps  yes—anna-claire, jeremiah whispers, in her ear)
                                (the demure young women with their low-hanging pigtails the color of sandstone, the color of cottonwoods, the color of straw in the afternoon sunlight)

                                                (trembling, mark holds her cold thin arm     the rain rattles in the elms overhead    storm’ll let up in a minute, he whispers)

                       (for many are called, but few are chosen, my son      father, i need to stay  i really, really, need to stay           it is the lord’s will, my son   and we know and pray that not that our will, but his, be done)

                                                                    (the banished young men, forced to leave their trucks, walk to the edges of the town and stand like cottonwood trees on the side of the highway    some with thumbs out    mark already walking headdownward in the desert heat     the great sandstone hills       the sky)   
                                                                       (the once-hot streets drown under the flat weight of lakewater    the dry wash through the middle of town lies submerged)

   (the storm’ll let up, mark whispers to anna-claire)

                                                                            (july: hot dogs and steaks and corn on the cob and beans and salad and potato salad and the sizzle of grills and coleslaw and apple pie and cherry pie and a small mulberry pie for jeremiah just the way he likes and the believers all gathered under the sun like sunflowers   jeremiah turns away, and looks out into the utah desert)

       (they play at the reservoir above the dam      anna-claire’s white bonnet tanned at the base from sweat        anna-claire holding her beautiful happy apricot-colored baby)

                       (gardens thick with rhubarb)

                                             (tomatoes bursting ripe on the vines)

                 (hannah watches downward from her bedroom window)

  (the apricot-colored baby joyfully flings mud and minnows upward        water droplets shine in the high-desert air)




BIO: Jordan Hartt is a writer, writing teacher, and community and events organizer. His work has appeared in about thirty different literary magazines and journals, including Another Chicago Magazine (ACM), Crab Creek Review, and Prose Poem. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Idaho, and has taught literature and creative writing at Peninsula College for the past eight years. Hartt’s first book, Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest, is forthcoming in June, 2015.