317. The Storm

A thunderclap
Cracked, piercing both her ears.

“Mama! Rain!” James
Hurled out of the house.
He thought, thank God
Now that woman’s gone,
For mama’d been
A million miles away
All night, all day–
“Dad’s in town!
Oh, shoot!”

Her face, running wet, hair
Soaked and streaming
Down her shoulders, round
Her neck, raindrops
Clinging, lashes, brows–
Rooted to the spot, she
Cupped her hands–they
Filled, spilling, tumbling

James was hopping,
Like a crazy toad,
Puddle into puddle,
Splash! Flat-foot, leaping,
Two feet hitting, splat,
Muddy water–
Mud in black streaks
Criss-crossed arms and legs–
Hair was plastered,
Shiny, drooling mud.
He sped round the yard,
Found a stick, and struck
The pools of water,
Leaping, dancing–
“Ma! Can I
Get wet?”

Swathed in sopping dress,
Riah shook the water
From her eyes.
Saw him with
Amazing clearness:
James who went to school
And drove a tractor–
Who got wet,
Built windmills,
Barker’s friend–someday
Folks would meet
Him, who would not know
Her. James Thomas
McKenna. Startling
Bright she saw–as if
An arcing lightning-bolt
Had caught them all, a camera,
In its flash–James
And Tom and her, the patient

And a burden lifted.
She felt happy.
I’m here.
I’m not here.
She called to James:
Then, her heart full,
Never knowing why,
Beneath her breath,
She added:


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