Danielle Cadena Deulen

Winter Inversion

Salt Lake City

All winter, the air is at
record-breaking levels
of toxicity; announcers

warn not to go out into
the red days. Seagulls
displaced from coastal

cities cry poison over
the desert planes. We
pretend not to live

where we do, that we
don’t turn away from
each other with regret.

I try to avoid breathing
in your scent. Long ago,
glaciers carved this valley,

then melted away
into sand. The change
was torture, and now

the stunned hills shudder,
go white. You see, it’s not
a simple mimesis: memory

for landscape. It’s the silence,
the smog, my skin blazing
for you like a lamp at the end

of a wharf where an ocean
never was, or was so long
past it doesn’t matter.

I can’t stand it anymore.
At night, when I walk out,
I feel the crush of shells

beneath my feet—mollusks
fooled by the cool, wet air,
so at first I think I’ve arrived

at a shore, then I see how
I’ve murdered what would
have delighted me: how they

must have shone in the dark,
reaching out their antennae
before them, blind and gleaming.

I find no pearls within
their ruined flesh. I know
that you will never touch me.

Danielle Cadena Deulen is the author of two books: Lovely Asunder (University of Arkansas Press, 2011), winner of the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize, and The Riots (University of Georgia Press, 2011), winner of the AWP Prize in Creative Nonfiction and the GLCA New Writers Award. She teaches in the graduate creative writing program at the University of Cincinnati.