As the leering boss poised by a photocopier
might prevent a secretary from completing
a simple task, she will approach the machine,
dread-filled, ocean’s stomach of inevitability—
for certainly he will lean to her shell-small
ear (pinched with a plain pearl) to impart
his jism, words jetting deep up from within
his throat: the grocery stores are ransacked.
Generators battled for. Gallons of water lugged
beneath arms to car trunks. As if we might die.
Only past midnight rain begins its sluicing
through tree branches, lashes streets’ tarry
lengths, runnels its hasty murks down drains.
Wait for it to hit. One waits, does not sleep.
As if it’s better to be struck while conscious.
Which brings us to the question of why it is
only tonight that we stay awake, lie in wait
for its punch. Brings us to the question of how
is it that we, as a highly developed species, are
even capable of sleep, since strikes lie always
in wait, even when hurricane is not a season,
this weather that cannot but be our own, is all
that of which we are ourselves capable. Stand
in cashier lines and your jawline dies to break
at the impact of an anonymous fist. Because you
talk too much. Because of your lips. Have you
not been told, in no uncertain terms, you’ll die
before your time, by an individual who in no
uncertain terms wants you to die? So lie dead
to this wind, unnoose yourself from weather,
because oblivion becomes us. Waking, I clear
glasses from tables, empty ashtrays, go out for
a drive. See whole red clouds of tree heads sunk
onto sidewalks, sirens stream scarlet embers
along the surfaces of knee-deep puddles. Every
single block’s been hit, minus mine. Minus me,
I can’t complain. Minus me means a vacation from
me. Yet, will my lovers be concerned by my absence?
This problem is quickly solved since I have none.
Go ahead, yank my insides out. Name your pleasure.
Cate Marvin’s first book, World’s Tallest Disaster, was chosen for the 2000 Kathryn A. Morton Prize. In 2002, she received the Kate Tufts Discovery Prize. She co-edited the anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century, and received a Whiting Award for her second book of poems. Marvin teaches poetry writing at the University of Southern Maine and is Professor of English at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. In 2009, she co-founded the nonprofit organization VIDA: Women in Literary Arts with poet Erin Belieu. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, her third book of poems, Oracle, was released from W.W. Norton & Co. in March 2015. She is currently a Visiting Professor in creative writing at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. This poem originally appeared in Tin House #52: Summer Reading.