Maybe you hunkered in your bathtub when the window kicked in.
Maybe you lurched to your closet until the wind pried you out.
Maybe your neighbor clothed you naked no trace of the trailer where you shot up.
Maybe you found your miracle, that one glass ornament
from your grandmother’s set. Probably you dropped it.
Certainly, you keep saying it sounded like a train.
You think you were saved by God or luck or freak.
And your yellow bruiser is crucified in a tree.
You can see the sky has fallen into the church down the street.
Maybe those dopes now shoot up the sky.
For certain you can see the tornado track began here
and hugged the skin for thirty miles.
Look what you have in your hand now a needle and an open packet of tea.
What is house from the road becomes den as you enter: a large woman and her dog’s dirt dark hole in which everything dragged in continues to flit like fleas– bags, cards, medicines, bones, long canine hair woofing its thick matting through the weave. And maybe
you do what a good sister thinks she should: put on rubber gloves and sort unopened envelopes, bills, ads, magazines, letters from your mother postmarked a decade before she died; create a small corner of order among the trash. And maybe as you work, you worry about mouse droppings and disease
and your lungs, and probably you try not to breathe. And maybe in that spare week with your sister, you undo a bit of her undoing though you know that once you leave, the trash will return like stale bread thrown upon the waters, a hundredfold. And maybe you try not to judge, you with your hope elsewhere, and maybe,
though she asked you to come, she wants you gone, you with your plucking and feathering, your talk of a past that now seems only you shared. And now as you stand scouring the crusted months of skillets and pans, she calls you from the edge of the bathtub which you worry is falling through her floor,
she wants a towel, and you begin to search through the stacks of laundry you have done, and she says bring it in, the green one, she doesn’t mind who sees what anymore, the doctors have seen all there is to see. And there she is, sitting naked on the toilet, the mound of her with the light coming through the spectral
bathroom window behind her, and you think of that painting by Lucien Freud, a monstrously fat man forced into a corner, though there is something sexless about your sister’s immensity, the mass of her stomach resting on her thighs, her long white hair backlit, and her skin pale and wet and almost luminous.
You did not imagine your sister thus–your sister with her depression and fibromyalgia, her kidneys and her diabetes, her corrupt ex-husband and her drugged out kids–you did not imagine your sister so strangely shimmering in her corporeal grief.
Originally appeared in Mobius
Sea of Appearances
for my daughter
You wore polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes, to see without being seen, to spot the signatures of snatch tides. You knew to stay one hundred feet from piers and jetties and playful men in Speedos, you knew that permanent rip currents existed along such seemings. You paid close attention to children and old folks, remembering that even in shallow water a random wave could destroy your footing. And you trained to swim parallel to shore, to outthink the break that could spoil you under. And every weatherman along the coast said, yes, a good time to go swimming. And now, the rip tide, moving eight feet a second, cleaving you from what you cleaved to, you, a bit of seaweed flipping in the surf, and what am I yelling from the shore, just smile darling, just grin and bear on out until you find something to cling to?
All the signs seemed right: a boy from a temperate marriage, a boy who wept when he saw you in your wedding dress. Now he’s the lifeguard, the one shrugging his shoulders, walking away.
Where mice are boatmen. – Kabir
As a cat, that night, the sea—
black ribbon water fall,
How small we were, tails rowing
our bloated bellies in the ink.
Black. Ribbon. Water claws the bank.
Our father standing stern, unbowed,
our bellies bloated, soon to sink–
our mother quaking with the stars.
Father stern and unknowing
no port to starboard, no stem unbowed.
Our mother still, eyes towed by stars,
rustle of leaves, shaggy ripples.
No port to starboard, no star to bow,
how small we were, tails floating
through a tremor of leaves, shallow laps–
as the cat, that night, the sea.
Lois Marie Harrod’s The Only Is won the 2012 Tennessee Chapbook Contest (Poems & Plays), her 11th book, Brief Term, a collection of poems about teachers and teaching, was published by Black Buzzard Press, 2011, and her Cosmongony won the 2010 Hazel Lipa Chapbook (Iowa State). She teaches creative writing at the College of New Jersey. Learn more at www.loismarieharrod.com.