Recitation During the Storm

A poem by Sandy Longhorn:


Let the thunder clamor above and continue

after lightning has licked the heavy air.

This is not a haunting. I mean to be awake

and wide-eyed—to be both owl and field mouse

caught in strobes of light.

The clock pushes past midnight, then one,

then two, and I am counting backwards

into what is left as the bruises fade.

One man told me love was a transitive verb,

worrying me like a rosary bead to prove it.

Another man stood me in the middle of Nebraska

to prove the Permian seas once stretched

from Pittsburgh to Denver, home to creatures

we read about with our stone-caressing fingers

but could never know. The last man was a thief,

his voice a prayer to a god so exotic I bloodied

my knees falling down before them both.

This is a recounting. I mean to be accurate

and true—to be both diary and document

held open and up to the light.

Let the storm pass, dawn taming the landscape

outside my room, leaves and branches loosening

back into the shapes of trees.

When I’m exhausted and mentally busy, like I am right now, I like to find and read a poem I’ve never read before. It not only calms me down but gives me a chance to think differently about things, and then go out into the world again, as if emerging from some imaginary den—ready to try all over again. I found this poem in my anthology after a particularly stressful day working with middle-schoolers (and adults) at summer camp. I think tomorrow I’ll read the poem again before I take my last sip of coffee and head out into the still dark morning; the last three lines might need to be repeated.


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