g r a v e l
A L I T E R A R Y J O U R N A L
Haley Van Heukelom
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?
that dresses the stars.
The house and its tenants
The house and its tenants and its dust
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.
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.
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