Fruit bats hang upside down
on each blade of the ceiling fan
like gargoyles come alive
in hourly spasms.
They make great sleep shudders,
one after the next,
the fan slowly turning on the lowest setting.
The bats are their own best partner,
sleeping inside their own embrace.
Drought time in Jamaica.
It’s a trick. It’s not going to rain
here, just over there. So close I can feel
the vapor, close like someone
staring at my face to wake me up.
All I get is the smell
of boat gas on freshwater—
childhood summer smell,
fragrant and noxious like most memories.
The drought’s not a dream but
in the early morning when my thoughts
are shapes, I forget the drought’s still here.
When my brother was a toddler and not as sick
(as he would get),
and not in a murky heroin world across the country
on a brown couch in a brown room
that I imagine as his dream pit,
he put his plastic action figures
on the ceiling fan in the master bedroom
of our holiday home in Jamaica.
It was a time of unrest on the island
and at night young boys with yellow eyes
and old guns against their bird chests
guarded the house.
Liz Solms lives between Philadelphia and the island of Jamaica. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Post Road, Wasafiri, The Village Voice, War Literature & The Arts, and the Naugatauk River Review, among other publications. In 2014, she received a Pushcart Prize nomination, and was a finalist for both the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry, and Glimmer Train’s New Writer Award. She holds an MFA from Bennington College.
"Jungle Room" was chosen as a finalist for the 2015 Peseroff Prize. Judge Jill McDonough admired "the way 'the smell/of boat gas on freshwater’ evokes childhood, memory, and connects us to ‘the vapor’ of almost-rain, and of loss."