The Lost City of What | by Joe Milazzo

The sides of the volcano poured themselves upon us.

The sky, every shade of tumescence. It began with our looking at pictures, one thrown up after the other but in no discernible sequence, with no lucidity. Everything slid like the dusty melt of August (if only we had known that incalescence thus then) streets, our fair traffic overcome. Flanks of pumice, ash, great fissured slurries of acacia and other, even more ravishing names. Because their heads were covered, the women were the first to feel the rain, spotting, arrow-tipped.


In the augury of one picture, a serpent wound about itself yet stretched as long still as a century.

Old men, otherwise honorable, flapped red alongside their shades. Advancing, the mountain walking wide, but not so fast we could not commend what was bare of us (foreheads, shoulders, ankles) to the destruction. Swirling in more reports, a different picture: a single helm, involuted as a swan, left to the side of our byways. Oyster is a synonym for grey. The sky now our ocean, or the expanse of a suffocation. We were landlocked, this being no sin. Then what, if sin was? Impressed by the picture of a sky turned to , ants bursting their vaults, driven from their quietude by unimaginable rivers. The only thing to do but bow to the velocity of one’s salute, the visor of a terrified arm, to be turned and shrivel, to carry these staves, lictors of shame. Catastrophe accumulating as the new definition of trespass, it began in our otherness from nearer neighbors, a faith like a craving for salt: that looking was an ethic. In another picture, a fountain, white and entirely ideal, its tub scrotal somehow, streaming with the flat heads of nails done wearing through shoes. We looked at what we had made, looking blasted now beyond the edges, there’s walls shattering within the limits of here, we saw, we looked at how we had no time to repent our resemblances. The air plowing down through striations, rose and blandly inimical, breathing suddenly mineral.

Another picture: a solitary foot, its three toes lugubrious satires, a collapse of noses, and waxen. Trees too thickly branched to invite nests, clumped in faceless decapitations, necks mere sticks of char. All concrete ostensible. The summit whose vanishing we everyday painted worshipfully, with the quicknesses of searched-out shadow, it broke its collar, ballooning, bulbed, remorseless portent and lesson, that light we pictured the anamnesis of heat. One picture vanishes only to scaffold another picture, the very ideas of pictures and looking rebuilding themselves anticipatory, even before that avalanche of cloud was unbound from its thunder. In another picture, then another, then another, each and then, and that a block of smithed ice, sealing.

We had not been warned that we would be pulled inside out, densities of ribs and skulls gravitating with the stagger of punctures to the orbit of this skidding comet. Eyes pooling in a fire of terrible staring, hair sickly, laureled with smoke, lipless, horizonless cannibal mouths, speech crushed out of them, a picture of awe showing us our rebellion. Although the burning could feel like bread baking, and some said they smelled crust and loaf in all this midst, these clothes ignitions of skin, a feast for neither the first nor the last not to be spared. The fury of the soil an icon, spired, a manifesto (some said prescription; some, an affectation). There was nowhere to be else, only us, the slaves to sensations we became, child bronzes commemorating this victory over the trajectories taken by our admiration.

Our run stumbling, attempting, always upward. A seminal poison pluming, its easter vinegar absorbing every avenue. Dove is a way to express grey, livid somehow black, wine a picture of red. Seeking refuge in pictures was no cause, it was the eruption itself. A picture’s civilizing no longer so exceptional. The frozen consent of a picture’s atrium. The portico of a picture, tunneled. The gardens of a picture, grazed to nothing by wild lambs. In each picture, the rubble of infinite looming.

We were certain, all virgins untouched by a dark interior, insistence, never bent at that knee, closing, closing squalid without choking. We thought we were meant to thrive, stalks, great and columnar, into our reaching, a symmetry and standing more to endure. Instead, this ziggurat downpour, the irresistible course of this wonderful, torrid something, it opens, like a constellation, or another sphinx, its copper like iron, its paw.



Joe Milazzo is a writer, editor, educator, and designer. He is the author of the novel Crepuscule W/ Nellie (Jaded Ibis Press) and two collections of poetry: The Habiliments (Apostrophe Books) and the forthcoming Of All Places In This Place Of All Places. His writings have appeared in Black ClockBlack Warrior ReviewBOMBThe CollagistPreludeTammy, and elsewhere. He co-edits the online interdisciplinary arts journal [out of nothing], is a Contributing Editor at Entropy, curates the Other People’s Poetry reading series, and is also the proprietor of Imipolex Press. Joe lives and works in Dallas, TX, where he was born and raised.


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