harvest moon: summer solstice

lately has been smoldering, sun-beat-heavy on tin roofs thick in pines. river has gathered velocity and steam on its journey down the mountain, has reached its hands into lakes and raised water like dead. crops have disappeared in rows of teeth. fields of cotton dream in green.

lately cats are stirring, are slipping under doorways and around windowframes, gnawing through melted doorknobs and the walls of houses release a deep sigh. with the ghosts of river and flame surging their veins, cats have death-sprinted circles through the trees, shrieking through the night. the moon has turned a deep red, has birthed new star formations in preparation for a pending doom.

well bottoms have dried, have heard the baritone rumble of river and evaporated into counter-melody. villagers wake to a death march, to a song broke free from the ground. seeking water, the roots of homes have lifted families whole into the river, embedded themselves in burning mud and the families swept downstream into clouds of smoke.

cats step sideways over mounds of sleeping villagers struck down by a sudden wave of midday heat. they have been seen carrying small children in their mouths off into the trees, have left behind messages smeared in mud on windowpanes—let go; sleep now; the heat inside will save you.

refusing to carry madness, the wind has ceased. it has fallen from the sky in shreds of warm wet paper. it has been caught in pine branches and hangs down like moss. villagers place pots and pans under to catch the drips, to use a water untainted by river.

it has been weeks since anyone has seen a cat. the dogs of the village have become inactive, have been heard hacking imaginary hairballs the color of blood. have stayed outside, mostly, and wandered into underground tunnels when the wind is highest, when the river swells and the ground flash-fires.

travelers from the bleached interstate have reported mirages of felines skulking the tops of pine boughs, bending the thinnest branches with the weight of their anger, sun-fury. the roads have buckled, they say, and have been known to arc animals off their backs high into a weary sky whose color is worn and forgotten.

villagers have wandered into the trees in search of cats, carrying signs of their departure with them. returning with less, they speak in long silences of pinecones unfurling in heat-blossoms and streaking down as comets, of cats with shaman-green eyes incanting the air with swishing tails, and of a peace felt in grey river water.

the returned villagers say there is nothing beyond the midday horizon of heat, where the present moment muddies into other dimensions. the cats, they say, know this with an instinct ungrounded in any knowledge found in the village library.

reports have not returned—armadillos wrapped in aluminum foil—sent out to judge the length between here and the road ending in distance. where the river swallows the road and touches the sky is an open mouth, sleeping. it is time, they say, to sleep.

I climb from the bottom of a well-dream to a house which is a cave which is melting in clumps. I awake to a cat on a ledge which was a window which is a hole in the sky. cat, lithe as pine-sway, coils into a sun-spring and begins its long summer sleep.