Small Rooms, Seven Summers: Sandy Crimmins Poetry Prize Honorable Mention

Anything that lives feels the earth flinch.
Even the things that don’t live cower in the heat.
The pavement, the asphalt, the electric lines—

they slump beneath the sky which seems brown or burned.
We’re all inside our small apartments, in whichever room
has the air conditioner. Out on the street just a few

pigeons and crazy people peck slowly across the deserted
heat town.  With a towel over my head I inhabit my migraine.
My head and eyeballs sit down in their own small room that pulses

with a pain I can watch. Maybe this is the smallest room I will ever occupy.
In here, it is like slowing down the rain, seeing each drop.
In here, I am unable to know anything except exactly how this feels.

If I can feel gratitude for this—to be a prisoner
in the cold air, locked inside my own high pitched darkness.
If I can feel gratitude for being stranded.  Like when my brother

visited seven summers ago, the last time he came.
It was a heat wave and we moved into our bedroom,
all of us, my husband, my brother, the television.

We turned the only room with the air conditioner into our own little world
with everything we could ever need. We ate dinner with plates
and glasses set across the bed, slept three across our mattress.

I woke in the night to see my brother’s arm in a cast, dangling off
the bed like a crescent moon. He had punched his arm through a wall
the week before. My husband slept straight as a mummy on my other side.

This was the first time I wanted to feel trapped.
In a small room awake between two men where it was quiet
and cold and outside the city was on fire.

Liz Solms is a writer who lives between Philadelphia and the island of Jamaica where she works in agriculture. Her writing has appeared in The Village Voice, Post Road, The Naugatauk Review, and Diner Journal among other publications.  She holds an MFA from Bennington College.