Tempest II — Laura
by Phoebe Cragon
I have a bad habit of imagining disasters that won’t ever happen,
wasting time brewing up a storm for us to weather
just for the chance to emerge at sunup holding hands,
smiling, having proved ourselves impervious and deep-rooted.
I’ll admit I didn’t plan for an inland hurricane that struck as we slept
apart, tearing through my plans like a trailer park.
Without your laugh to chase it into hyperbole, the beating of branches
against shaking windowpanes just sends me running for the bathtub.
I sit, shivering, waiting for the inevitable is it raining where you are?
that tells me you’re watching the weather channel for me,
that you feel everything tilt when our pine tree finally topples,
heaved-up roots leaving an altar-sized hole outside the north window.
When I wake, hours later, blinking alone under an unexpected sunrise,
there’s only the silence of a wind that’s blown itself out.
It drives Grandma insane; she swats at Grandpa’s hands
when they spill change into the fruit basket,
shuffle playing cards under his sweating coffee cup.
She chases him across the house with a mop
and still can’t keep him clean:
the whiskey hiding in the top cabinet
and the Marlboros cached in the defunct Toyota
are their own type of stubborn stain.
There just isn’t enough time in the day—
doctors in the morning,
dishes in the afternoon,
and then it’s dinner
and you’re starting all over.
The clock over the stove stopped years ago
and she swears she’s been living the same minute over,
stuck in the breath between
the punch of the spray bottle
and the swipe of the rag.
He just laughs and laughs,
begrudges her wrung red hands
and her endless litter of candy wrappers,
the peppermint smell of her nervous mouth
as he leans in to kiss her quiet.
Of course, in the next year’s silence, she finally catches up.
She beats the clock back into motion
and suddenly the minutes won’t stop.
Without the abating curl of cigarette smoke
the air is overwrought with the smell
of her favorite sage soap.
The truck spends a week at the detailers.
The cabinets hold only Comet and Windex,
casserole dishes on loan
and coffee cups wiped dry.
Bouquets drop withered petals on the kitchen floor
and Saturday seems a fine day for sweeping.
What else is there to do?
Spiderwort and Blackberry
It’s a start, at least, my mother sighs.
The clueless gardener, summoned in desperation,
rips through vines and kicks something up
into the french door, leaves it fractured and frosted-looking,
hanging like a held breath behind the venetians
that we can’t exactly look out of anymore.
Once dirty work’s done there’s a relief
in surveying the empty agitated earth,
though victory doesn’t feel quite like we expected
with the irises beheaded and weeping indigo,
Great-Grandmother’s hydrangeas dethroned
for daring to sleep through winter.
Victory doesn’t feel like victory when we realize,
too late, that neglect doesn’t kill fast enough.
Guilt is perennial.
Next thing we know it’s summer and we’re sweating again,
on our knees unbraiding lantana and thistle
under an indifferent sun.
It never ends, my mother laments.
Green and dying and ever-narcissistic,
the garden curls away from us.
With no deference to our hands
it rots and flowers and folds in on itself,
antic and unconquerable.
Previously published in Sparks of Calliope, August 2022
Phoebe Cragon is a student pursuing a degree in English at Centenary College of Louisiana, where she is Literary Editor of Pandora Magazine. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Sparks of Calliope.