by Shyla Shehan

Sometimes words dry up
like soil in drought.
Unearthed clumps
of rust brown clay feel like rocks.
Clenched in a fist
they turn to dust,
slip through your fingertips
and leave a pile of dry grit
on cracked ground.
Ushered away
by a mild July breeze
without a trace. No record
they were selected, held,
turned over in the palm.
Like hourglass sand,
they’re gone.
You can’t remember
what happened in 1998—
nothing left from the sift.

Other times are a raging storm. The swell
comes suddenly as a cumulonimbus emerges.
A siren somewhere in Nebraska fires up—
you recognize it but you're never prepared.
You stare at a green-yellow sky
as it gets darker—unable to look away.
You watch the formation of the vortex
like scanning a car crash on a busy highway—
pulse quicker at the thought of broken bodies,
exposed bones, and blood.
Nothing you remember more
than the taste of blood in your eyes.

A rogue cumulus the color of Gotham City
spirals counterclockwise. It collides
with a volatile wall-cloud racing northeast
at a 40 mile per hour clip. It rips a hole
in the dense grey gauze and rain spills out,
pearl white peas spill out. Your marbles,
guts, and all of 2016 rains down.
Bleached walnuts crack windshields
a half a block away. They break the reflection
of sky, but you don’t move. You need this
disaster. This is the very definition of need.

The ground saturated, rain
collects in pools at your feet.
You dance in the swell, open your throat
and drink it in giant gulps. It grows deep—
you find a boat, grab an oar, and give in
to the urge to sing.

You ride it.
You ride up and over each wave.
You brace for impact each time the bow
of your craft crashes down. You don't stop.
You ride it. You ride it out
until it subsides.

When the bottom of your boat scrapes pavement,
you fish a white walnut off the sidewalk
and squeeze it in your fist. Like a rock—
it doesn’t yield to the pressure.
You squeeze tighter. The cold stings
your palm and fingers.
They become red and wet
and this.

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