Now there is a clot in the heat-dried air.
Her voice retreats inward. She swallows commands
there was no time to give, holds them down.
Like tracers they light what she saw.
The air was a coarse ground of red meat.
She tries to deny it, but the memory
of their shoulders clings like sand on her tongue,
and certain thoughts spin like stuck wheels.
Suppose the air returns to being the air,
and that long day of scorch cools down. How,
knowing what she saw, can I not see
blood in the cloud stream of sunset?
My daughter, no pills can erase, no remorse
clear the air of particles you breathed in.
They circulate in you. You entered the compound
behind the fire team, and all but you are gone.
J. C. Todd’s recent work explores the traumatic effects of war on women, both civilians and combatants. She is author of Beyond Repair, forthcoming in 2021 from Able Muse Press, The Damages of Morning, a 2019 Eric Hoffer Award finalist, and three other books. In collaboration with visual artist MaryAnn L. Miller of Lucia Press, she has created the artist books FUBAR and On Foot / By Hand. Winner of the 2016 Rita Dove Prize in Poetry and twice a finalist for Poetry Society of America contests, she has held fellowships in poetry from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Bemis Center, and elsewhere. Her work has been published in the American Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Thrush, The Paris Review, and most recently in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. She lives not far from the Delaware River in Philadelphia.