March 6, 2009

Sarah Pemberton Strong

AFTER 75 YEARS, SHE FINALLY GETS ANGRY

At first we did not know what was happening.
The tea on the porch table cooled several degrees
while she stood up, clutched
the scrollwork back of the chair. The lines
on her face arranged themselves in a way
we’d never seen, her nostrils flared
and the bird in the tree behind her stopped
singing. Someone, not me, took
a breath and then we were in it. It
was like a high wind, the way her hair
kicked up. We froze in our wrought
iron seats as from inside the house her pale
drapes sailed out toward us, toward the blackening
sky and the suddenly greenish light, toward
the fury of her gaze that was past
furious, past pale, past any flail of fear
we might fumble out, gesture.
Inside the thinly-wrinkled scent of powder a monster
had been sleeping. Her planted feet, the wings
of her hands, and when she opened the history
of her mouth her unshackled rage. It blew into us,
lodged in us, our throats, and afterward
we never spoke of it. Never, not even to one
another. Struck mute—we, who were witness.

from Rattle 29, Summer 2008

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