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Haley Van Heukelom

Fool’s Gold


In a rock shop at the base of Mt. Princeton

you scoop bronze-gold nuggets

of pyrite from a shallow marble bowl.

The pieces fight each other through spaces

in your fingers. The mountain of gold

dwindles and exposes a wasp,

curled like a cat at the center of your palm.

One wing shimmers with a flake of white

mica muscovite. You drop the wasp

back into the marble and move to the man,

outside, staring into piles of sea-glass.


That December you had a golden love

for a pyrite lover. You wanted

him to be authentic, brighter, softer.

But a gray wake followed him.

Sea-secrets glittered in his mint-green eyes

flecked with yellow, like dried leaves

on the surface of a pool. You could drown

in those eyes, you said. But your name

fell hard off his lips, like diamonds

he’d been trying to chew. He had

a crystal quartz smile, and you played along

because you wanted to die for love.

You always have.







Inside the house all is rose—

dim with dust as late February

always is. You cover your mouth

with cracked fingers and voice

plans to leave with winter.

I don’t believe you at first,

but I feel your words like fear

of thunder. Once it’s heard,

the damage is done. 





Nine Meditations on Dust



It was morning all afternoon.

It was raining,

and it was going to rain.

Dust gathered in corners

like leaves in gutters.



Have you seen

the Milky Way

in late winter?

It’s dust

that dresses the stars.



The house and its tenants

are one.

The house and its tenants and its dust

are one.



No matter how many times

I sweep dust onto the porch

barefoot June brings it back.



I do not know which to prefer:

these clean-swept cracks in hardwood

or the accumulation just before.



The boxes I’ve saved hold glitter

from two moves ago, hair

from a dog who died last July,

a shard of unnamed nail or bone

that will follow me to the next.



My mind and I feel differently

about the dusty squares left behind

by moved bed frames, like the dry

aftermath of collapsed buildings.

Not enough,

but enough.


What makes morning sunlight

beautiful is not its yellow

or its shadows.

It’s the river of ash in it.



I am wounded by dust.

By the follicles of hair and skin still in it.

By how long the fingerprints stay

after the hands have left.





In Fragments


For today, all the old woman can do in her grey garden is pick dead leaves and pray to

God that the naked tree won’t let go of its nests. Snow turns to rain and falls

so hard it cracks a windowpane installed in the eighties. This house was

loved so much it’s breaking. Slate clouds summersault through

the skylight window. There’s no lightening here. There are things in this

world you and I have never seen. Clouds break and pour rain, split and pour sun

that illuminates each speck of dust that floats above the red oak floors.

He knew the river beside this house would flood, but God 

gave these clouds water anyway. A grey cat swaggers down the center of the road,

his fur muddied with dust and drizzle. It’s six o’clock in the morning and the

only car on the road hits him, pauses, drives away. There are things our daughters and

sons will never know. This house is dim. Light shines in fragments. 





Poem without Sacrifice


Mountains will hold onto you.

You think you can just move

away, love Mt. Princeton and Long’s Peak

once you’re back,  but you

are wrong. You don’t know


calcite will betray you. Here it tastes

like salt, but breaks like quartz. Here

erodes the stomach like unreturned

phone calls and the slow crawl of yesterday.

You don’t know aspen roots can raise


the ground like varicose veins in legs,

can take root in you, too.

You don’t know yet

how hard it is to pull a tree out

of the ground—that this tree cannot be


replanted next to stagnant southern

rivers or any coastal longing. Here,

the dog won’t let you sleep. His golden

fur warms you, turns your eyes

wine-drunk evening red. He will place


his muzzle to your neck, let you pet

his lion chest, but he won’t stop

the train of grief from first dog,

early life. He won’t lie down

on the tracks that lead you back

        and back.

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