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History of Hurricanes

by Teresa Cader


Because we cannot know—

we plant crops, make love in the light of our not-knowing

A Minuteman prods cows from the Green with his musket,
his waxed paper windows snapping in the wind,
stiletto stalks in the herb garden upright—Now

blown sideways—Now weighted down in genuflection,

not toward,

And a frail man holding an Imari teacup paces at daybreak
                        in his courtyard in Kyoto

a cherry tree petaling the stones pink and slippery
                        in the weeks he lay feverish

waiting for word from the doctor, checking for signs—Now

in the season of earthenware sturdiness and dependency
                        it must begin, the season of his recovery

~

No whirling dervish on the radar, no radar,
no voices warning—no Voice—fugue of trees, lightning

Because we cannot know,we imagine

What will happen to me without you?

~

I know some things I remember—

the Delaware River two stories high inside the brick houses
cars floating past Trenton like a regiment on display
brown water climbing our basement stairs two at a time

~

Like months of remission—
                                           the eye shifts

the waxed paper windows
        burst behind the flapping shutters—

and how could he save his child after that calm,
a man who’d never seen a roof sheared off?

~

Across town the ninth graders in their cut-offs:
Science sucks, they grouse. Stupid history of hurricanes.

No one can remember one;

velocity, storm surge—
                                                     abstractions
the earth churns as Isabel rips through Buzzard’s Bay

A hurricane, as one meaning has it:
a large crowded assembly of fashionable people at a private house

~

The river cannot remember its flooding—

        I worry you will forget to check
                                                   the watermarks in time

An echo of feet on stone is all the neighbors
                               knew of their neighbor,
                                                   a lover of cherry trees

and of his wife who prayed for him at the shrine
her hair swept up in his favorite onyx comb

 

Teresa Cader teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University. She is the author of Guests (1991), which won the Norma Farber First Book Award and The Journal Award in Poetry. A section of her second book, The Paper Wasp (1999), won the George Bogin Memorial Award. She has just completed a thirdcollection, poems from which have appeared or are forthcoming in Slate, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. “History of Hurricanes,” published here, is the collection’s title poem. (4/2005)


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