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In Each Dream Defeat





The villages of Prêcheur and Sainte-Philomène were receiving a steady stream of ash.



Spring: girl’s a rock of glass, a summons the beach rises after (breath stanched, bare anchorage

shipped to shore). One man


survived in his jail cell (no oxygen left to be burned). Hunkered down, turns amphibious, inhales

soil, an elegant old frog. Later,


finds himself lonely, everyone in free air having passed. No shelter, no fame: strains to eat trees,

grasps only lemon strips,


shards. Evenings, girl descends to meet him, navigating foot-on-foot ladders. Cottonmouths appear

as refuge, imprisonment


(speech lost, bold wake of bear-with)— guard pays her to leave,


but she signs never, and in that blank refusal births a world.





In the morning, people were observing the fireworks the mountain was displaying.



Spring: she lives each day as a trap to pry open, map to witness, fortress to found. Call in fireworks,

celebrating cattle (requested,


they chew cud till morning fades). No one saw the signs, or no one could get there that early. Ash on her

shirtback: she grinds in further,


stalking lace marks of defeat. Sorrow’s carnivalesque: dusk’s light showstops foreheads,

maddens woodgrain under eyes. The last will


be first, the trapped freed—city walls mangle each banged-out line—runners’ tracks blur rings,

eyewitnesses catch from afar: lingering,


stick a crown on disaster (we promise you’ll come out an honest man).






Spring: with each spin, another rock in her pocket, weeping doll on marionette thread. Throat-slicing

wind crosses (cutting’s just


another subtle pun). Whitecaps on water sling rubble, pebbles,


scrape legs bare. Each night she drags something behind her; purled or pulled, kneeled or healing,

always something reckless,


long-lived. Nights, she finds in each dream defeat (you’ll have to pull over this time). Whirling car engine:

miniscule, birdlike: stumbles and


rings. And yet doesn’t shift, no matter her moods, no matter white-beveled windows, (whose accident?)

(all neutral gears drown).






There are unnamed eyewitnesses to the eruption, probably survivors on the boats at the time of the eruption.i



Innumerable witnesses: someone’s seen her stumble (rocks projected at stomach, tossed with

scarred force at ears)—


someone’s watched sea winds forsake mountains, dropping bands of tessellated air—but yellow tape

confirms: she’s a hard one to


capture (darts around her forehead unfurl). Jack Sprat, mouse in the kitchen: all this would love to be a

sign. Cornered, she’d forget


asking questions, let distance hang low in knees. Tall


tales, bargains flock around her, endings float boats, catch


on air. Hope’s a distant listener (denouement’s shot)—


anger hurries off and ties her hands—




i “Wikipedia: Mount Pelée.” July 1, 2010. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Pel%C3%A9e

Rebecca Givens Rolland