Volume 10 • Number 2 • Fall-Winter 2018-2019

Charlotte Mandel

Heat Advisory

Mechanized air hisses through ceiling vents
keeping me alive but imprisoned. Can’t
step out the door. A humid wall of heat,
from cloud level to the fiery street,
throttles like a criminal in ambush.
Weight like invisible fleece chokes, breath crushed.
In heat, the body's streams evaporate
fluid from eyes, nostrils, lips, throat. “Hydrate!”
radios repeat. “Alert!” jangles cell phones.
Our pores relax in humming indoor zones
fueling carbonic vapors rising, rising,
tearing holes in our blue surround of sky.
Summers past, fragrant breezes spelled relief.
Today our cooling comfort rhymes with grief.

Breathless in Beijing

Like vicious dogs we wear muzzles—
masks to filter toxic particles,
frowning, squinting
through blinding thick haze.

Seal windows and doors with tape.
Keep children home from school.
Bathe baby with decontaminated water.

For centuries, coal
has been mother/father—
our cloak of sheltering warmth,
eraser of the dark,
creator of sizzling grill and wok's
steamy aromas.

Think train, factory, wages—all
drilled out of a mountain's
rock belly.

The air is a chemical weapon
we've turned upon ourselves.

Charlotte Mandel’s latest book of poetry To Be the Daylight is published by Kelsay Books. Previous books include two poem-novellas of feminist biblical revision—The Life of Mary and The Marriages of Jacob. Awards include the 2012 New Jersey Poets Prize and two fellowships in poetry from NJ State Council on the Arts. Visit her at