Plain China

Oso Mudslide

by Emma Van Dyke · University of Iowa
"Small House Near Somewhere" , Emily Hill · University of Minnesota

Is this what the world looks like to you after half a bottle, Ed?

 

Mountains raging down like drunken fathers? You’re intimately familiar with the slam

 

of stone against stone.                        Speak with me, wild boy: after all, you saw your own father ramrod in a chair, alone with his ravenous God.

 

I am far from home and home is drowning. It’s two after five, Ed. The gallery is closed &

 

my breath is warm against your paper face. I can’t decide if you’re lost or if you take pleasure in tearing up maps.

 

God folded my land across a seam                and rent it apart

 

because rain is a predator. Torrents and roars of earth. Mass wasting: a great salted wound. Dysentery, fat from the trails of oregon and tears, pricks up her ears.

 

My people learned their savagery from

the immense souls of herons.

The crabapple trees of America,

tightlipped in wonder, and readiness.

 

And you, dear and sullen child, all cragged over with drink: your father washed and washed and washed his hands, and

 

you lost all your women early,

in a tectonic world etched into

ever smaller boxes.  Dutch cities

crammed with gardens framing

one tulip like a jewel.

 

You had to touch your mother’s dead hand, see your sister’s face as a black curtain drew near. I want to wake you from this nightmare of stones smashing in fierce

                                                                                                                        dialogue

 

but I can’t wake myself. Hands open in rictus. Listen, Ed (born in horror of lines inked by time) I’m not asking you for comfort.

 

I’m asking you to draw.

 

I need to see again sunny light limned by shadows of ink. Show me the voltage of the skyline, silver fish pressing mouths to silver water. My home is the great green heart

Of some watchful titan. Rage

 

shimmers always at the edges.                                              Soggy logs break underfoot, dropping young girls into freezing pools. A black dog caught in white rapids, tossed against stones.          

 

Even the dog knows not to cry out. The world can be warm and sweet as a                         mouthful of plum

         but not here.                                     

                                            

 

                            We live knowing God

                            can erupt from forested ground, burn

 

His short madness,

                                            and be gone.

 

 

 

Look. Rescuers in their silence fan out

                                                                                            across sinkhole and great waste

looking for survivors. Only the whites of their palms are visible, like petals in a flooded gutter:

 

a boy buried up to his knees, eyes wide and gone with horror, pleading for his mother and for Sophie, Sophie, Sophie—

 

Even reflected, inked, slammed, distorted:

suffering survives. Anyone who spends more than a moment with you knows you clutch it,

just off-frame.

 

We reach through wreckage shoulder to shoulder with death, a jackal

girl alight with merry sympathy.Our hands clever as rain.

 

We all lose those things sweeter than us, Ed. We, all of us, stare up at a wide angle lens. You always draw a veil

 

and a sufferer, Munch.

As a boy, you knew the dead have as much claim to us as kin.

 

 

                                                                                  No one knows gold until it snaps

  

in the sky like a war pennant over broken pines. The mountain is a holy cup now. A scrawl of oily ink on stone.

 

Rage down on the world, Ed. No matter how you slash it, you spill great seething blocks of

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

    light

About the Author

Emma Van Dyke · University of Iowa

Recent University of Iowa graduate Emma Van Dyke is a writer, artist, and vocal performer currently residing on Bainbridge Island. As a student, she worked as the lead gallery attendant at the UI Museum of Art. She is currently awaiting admissions decisions for creative writing graduate programs, and tackling several projects, including a webcomic, a novel, a screenplay, and a television pitch. "Oso Mudslide" first appeared in Earthwords.

About the Artist

Emily Hill · University of Minnesota

Emily Hill is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities where she studies graphic design and art. Emily currently illustrates for the Wake Magazine on campus, as well as displaying her art at the Soap Factory art gallery in Minneapolis. "Small House Near Somewhere" firat appeared in Ivory Tower.