Volume 68, Number 2 · Spring 2019

inside the big hot hour

man: asleep
dog: long sleeping
the afternoon: languid and couched
my language: behind the curtain—

throbbing into the screen door
cicadas at its back, mites circling its haunches.
what to say to the overcast hour? this moment
twilight was conceived and

I birthed a great mountain of worries.
maybe the city doesn’t function because some
people snore while others seize with anxiety.
who’s to say that night will come?

is all I’m saying. if we haven’t learned how
to talk to the ant, the sparrow, the lone black moth
who escaped into the kitchen yesterday, brimming
until my man cut him down with a dish towel,

then who can understand us? is all I’m saying.
no, said someone. yes, said someone else.
they were looking at the same thing. it was the
hot hour. fish were sold. lawns were mowed.

I didn’t understand the person typing this at the
kitchen table, biting her lower lip and staring
into the backyard. I crawled up next to her.
I patted her head anyway.

Irène P. Mathieu is a pediatrician, writer, and public health researcher at the University of Virginia. Her most recent book is Grand Marronage (Switchback Books, 2019), which was selected as Editor’s Choice for the Gatewood Prize and runner-up for the Cave Canem/Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize. She is also the author of orogeny (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017), which won the Bob Kaufman Book Prize, and the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press, 2014). Irène is a recipient of Fulbright, Callaloo, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowships, and is on the editorial staff of Muzzle Magazine and the Journal of General Internal Medicine’s humanities section.