My entire nation pitches forward, ocean water turned violent.
It was a slow rise that we couldn’t detect in the open sea.
But now we can see it, an airless wall at crest peak,
that moment of full lungs ceasing to breathe in any more,
that split second as the cup fills and bulges toward overflow,
that moment the electricity begins its charge down the synapses,
that pause when the guitar string is bending, before it thwacks to hum.
That big glowing wave poised and holding, and in one more millisecond,
it will snap into the next frame of time, it will begin to fall, to fold,
beginning to break and fray, the dark, glowing water separating into broken pieces,
white and gold in the light and the roar will begin,
louder and louder as more collapses and crashes,
pushed far under the surface by all that is falling on top of it,
like folks being carried away in a stampede of crowd.
And once it has fallen, broken, crashed, plunged, then the undertow begins,
the demands of the ocean pulling back, demanding all its water return,
and the empty lungs begin to expand and pull the air down the throat,
Right now, my nation is that big frozen, glowing wave.
It is holding high and ready to unleash all its force
in this inevitable direction it has been thrown.
Melissa Helton is Assistant Professor of English at Southeast KY Comm & Tech College and her work has appeared in Anthology of Appalachian Writers vol. VIII, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, STILL: The Journal, Motif v. 4, and more. Her first chapbook, Inertia: A Study, is available through Finishing Line Press. She lives and farms in the mountains of southeast Kentucky.