The Strike


Back home I spent a lot of time in the rain.
I spent hours walking around my neighborhood
Not in light sprinklings or simple showers,
but in the heavy downpours that punctuated my childhood.
The storms that rolled in heavy and loud
with lightning that brightened the sky for miles
and with thunder so loud it shook the house and me,
down to the bones.

I can taste rain in the air.
It’s thick and heavy but I don’t choke on it.
I just close my eyes and breathe it in.
It tastes like atmosphere
and days in the country climbing hills until I didn’t know which way meant home.

It brings to mind hiding under tiny rock cliffs
with cousins that I hated
because I didn’t want to go back
to eerie emptiness of my grandparents’ country home.

Watching the rain start to fall between the trees
and wet the constant leaf litter that covered the ground 6 months from fall.
Huddled like an animal
and tuning out the sound of my cousin’s whining as she left me there in my silence.

It makes me think of swimming in creek pools
that only reached my dad’s knees,
alongside the schools of pearlescent sunfish.

Of catching mudfish with my bare hands
and getting finned by the spines lining its back
and thinking, in my childish nonsense way, that it had bit me.

I remember chasing crawdads and raising tadpoles into frogs.

The rain makes me remember
the time my dad killed the only tree frog I’d ever seen by closing the lid
of the specially aerated butter container I’d made to take him home in.

I remember watching my grandfather bulldoze the loose stones from the creek bottom
and rebuild the walls of the pond.

The feeling of holding a baby snapping turtle between my fingers,
all that power and danger so small and contained
and I had control over it.

He was no larger than a quarter
and he could have taken the tip of my finger
but all I did was smile
and smile
And pose for the camera
in my boys basketball tee.

The rain tracing its way down window panes reminds me
of shelling up in my grandfather’s garage,
full of sharp tools
and the pale green body of a 1969 mod top barracuda in all its flowered glory
While bright red lady bugs crowd the corners of every window,
and the calendar on the wall never seemed to change months
because the women drawn leaning on the car never moved,
and they were always
so unabashedly nude.

I remember sitting in that car,
feeling the leather under my tiny hands and knowing,
knowing that my Grandfather loved that car more than anything in the world.

I remember the bees in the storage house that terrified me
and how the copperhead watched my ankles pass by his face
and didn’t bite me
only to have my mother behead him with a shovel.

I remember screaming
because I knew he could hurt me but I didn’t want him to die.
That little snake hiding under a rock cliff from the water
sprayed from the waterfall no taller than I stood at the time.

“It’s poisonous,”
my parents told me,
“it could kill you.”

The pounding of rain on my skin as I walk barefoot through Lemay streets,
holding 4 year old flip flops in my hand
brings to mind
when they would argue until their voices broke
and I hid crying on my top bunk.

My clothes are soaked and they stick to my skin,
heavy and uncomfortable as I smile at my friend who walks beside me.
She lives in a house so full of things
that she can’t see her bed,
and the couch is where both she and her father sleep
because her mother is gone
and she doesn’t know when the next boyfriend will take her further away.

We walk in the rain
and it weighs us down with the knowledge
that there is nowhere to go
and no one to see.

In Lemay
there is no rock cliff to hide us from the drops of rain
and we revel in the heavy pull of the water
as it guides us along the tiny rivers that line the sidewalks on their way to drains.

We laugh loud and full
and I remember my mother telling me
how when the thunder shook my bones
the angels had finally scored their strike,
 and I would wonder silently if it was Michael
or Uriel
who had won the game. 


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