After the Storm

by Paul Hooker

Silence hovers like humidity
in the room. Prayers and sympathies
rise like steam in post-diluvian heat,
offerings to absent-minded gods.
He has little else to say or try or hope for.
But there is work, and so he rises too.

Gathers what the gale has left behind—
wedding photos, dancing hula-skirted
doll from Honolulu, Amtrac postcards
of snow-capped vistas in the Rocky Mountains,
the little Eiffel Tower made of pewter.
Each goes in the cardboard box he tries
but cannot muster strength to throw away.
For now, at least, the box is laid to rest
on the top shelf of the hallway closet
among the sprung umbrellas, widowed gloves,
detritus left by other, smaller storms.

In years to come, he will stumble over
pieces of remembrances once cherished,
but wind-torn, lost, and blown to god-knows-where
(Is there still a god who knows, or cares?)—
a candle-gilded dinner conversation
now come to ground in some neglected cornfield,
a shared purpling sunset repurposed as
a planter-box beside a front porch swing,
a pillowed smile before the lights go out
at night, now drained of warmth, mud-caked and drenched,
half sunk in standing water in a ditch.

He will stumble over them, and think
how strange they are and how alien,
will wonder were they ever really his,
and ask what sort of life would gather up
such random relics of aborted memory,
and rising, turn, and slowly walk away.