30. Dry Goods

Matching spools to fabrics,
Fingering the yardgoods,
Running sure hands down
The merchandise, stacked
Bolts, the women had been thinking
What to pack for fire–how
Long to wait, what if
The car broke down. Now,
Hearing only wind against the walls,
Relieved, they purchased:
Dust storm after all.
In line they chatted loudly,
Gliding items
On the countertop.

Riah stepped out,
Heading for the car.
Her body stopped her.
What? She looked around.
Just a duster, sure, kicking up,
Not yet so bad.
Didn’t have to hold her skirt.
But…what?

The street began to shift. In ripples
Grit puffed
Like the shaking of a sheet.
At her ankles dust stung,
Nipped her knees–now
She held her flapping housedress
In a hug. Near, Post Office
Shutters swung out crazily and
Slammed, slammed at the wall.
Sand splayed on the dark
Roofs of the cars.

She squinted, scanned uneasily
For James.
Maddened, overjoyed by wildness,
Children darted, ducked, and fled,
Store to store, car to car,
Porch to street.
They chased vagrant caps
In each fresh burst,
Laughed in shrieks.

And from not so far off
Any more,
A shuttling, gathering, deep-whining
Howl, like a giant freight train thrusting,
Rushing, hollow, Bore down
from above–swooped, and
Crashed-shops shuddering
As one–people gasped
For breath,
And bobbed in sound.

It’s the sun, thought Riah:
The sun’s gone.

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