215. Storm, February 18 (Visibility 1/2 mile, Duration 7 hours)

“This storm here,
It’s fixing to wind down.”
They stared out from the grocery,
Pausing to observe the change.
The sand that roared before
Now hung eye-level,
Sugaring their hats,
Their hair and brows,
As it snowed down.
Bell jangling on the door:
Riah walked in.
“Where you been?” they asked her.
“Been out listing”: ride
The tractor, throw up
Ridges, block the wind.
She spied a figure lurking
By a shelf.
“Hi, Louise.”
The other ladies locked eyes,

The bell: Jeanette, blown in.
“Did you all hear?”
They gathered round:
“How’s that?”
“What happened up in Hays–
Up there in Kansas.
I got word from my niece.”
“What was it?”
“I heard”: Mrs. Neal.
They glanced, surprised.
What news had she not
“A little boy.” Jeanette coughed.
Riah took one step back;
Louise, forward.

Out in that last storm.”
That one, worst so far.
The wind had swooped
Down on them, with three
Days of wailing,
Battering the walls.
No one cracked the door,
Or left home, hardly; with
The shrill howl in their
Ears, they’d clamped hands
Tight against their heads.
“How’d he happen out?”
“Coming home from school,
Just as it started, all the
Blowing, when it didn’t
Look so bad,
Or–I don’t know.
Thought he could make it.”
“Why didn’t his ma get him–
Pick him up?” Another:
“That’s what I’d have done.”

They had grouped closely now.
“I always pick mine up.”
“How long before they–
Found him?
How long was he–
Riah moved back.
Louise stepped behind her.

“Five hours, I think,
Or six, or eight.
No–oh, they
Found him the next day.
Out by a fencepost.
All balled up.”
Louise forgot the story:
She heard only
Riah’s racing breath–
Panting, shallow, like
The pounding of a heart,
Like a baby’s ribcage pumped–
Surely they all heard it, too?
“Fencepost…how old was he,
“Who found him?”
“Not her!”
“That, I don’t know.”
“I pick mine up.”

She put her hand to Riah’s
Elbow, and leaned forward, to
Her ear: “Let’s
Get out of this dump,
What do you say?–
And go sit in the car.
This crap gets old fast,
If you ask me.”
Riah gave no response:
Her skin was ice.
“Was his face
Covered?” someone asked.
Riah, still: bird
Frozen by the snake-eye,
Thought Louise, until it’s
Struck, strangled, and ate–
Too late.

“Riah, come on!
I got stuff to tell you.”
But Riah, staring, mute.
Sensing danger,
Louise stamped her foot.
“Okay, I’ll drag you out,
You little chit–”
Her grip had tightened;
She steered Riah toward the door.

As they left,
The bell rang at the sill, and
Voices floated:
“His coat
Around his head.
He was seven.”

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