Melanie McCabe

Sudden Storm

Something pushes the thunderheads down, a thumb across
a throat. Leaves fly up and crows blow wrong as umbrellas.

A skittering over the roof tiles says time to make tracks.
Somewhere nearby, dead limbs are cracking their punch lines.

Those of us with bones unpitch our tents, the slick spikes loose
and dangerous in our hands. Now the decision to be made

is plain: run or succumb. And yet, we look back: the windows
down each tidy street steam with the pressed faces of the wives

of Lot. That crackle and snap is what we desire—to be in it
and still breathing. A zag of blue strikes the horizon and makes

its point. Something somewhere will burn and rise. The guzzling dirt
sends out refugees to take their chances in the changed air.



2 a.m.

In the spring of three-hour nights, she wakes with the white
lozenge of the moon stuck in her throat, dreams as sheer
as coconut shavings scattered over the pillow.

Lunacy prickles her skin like the onset of influenza until
even air is too heavy, a silk scarf of stickpins.
The sleepers in the house leak static through the walls.

It will be another morning as powdery as bone—the staccato
of a trapped moth in her wrist. All day she will navigate
through the ragged islands of eyes and voices,

her raft leaking dread through thin, lashed timbers.
Somewhere distant, dusk’s purple creed is prayed;
sleep is a dot of landfall she can blot out with one thumb.



I Want to Say No

I want to say no, to resist, but one day follows another
like dingy geese into a pond—the paddle around
the leaf-clotted perimeter, obligatory and grim.

I wake each morning in the wrong body
and dress, baffled, the knees, breasts, pores
of a mystery I wonder if anyone will solve

or want to. The eyes I paint aren’t fooling
anyone. Sideways at the mirror, I peep
hard right to catch the woman others give

my name, try to smooth her like a rumpled
bed, but the knack is no longer mine.
And still I set this face toward the new day,

imagining that there might yet be someone
who will take my syllables between his lips
and tease from them a rhythm I can sway to,

refusing to give me back to the glass—who will
shake the maraca to buzz and loose
the seeds that are trapped in impostor bones.



Melanie McCabe is the author of His Other Life: Searching For My Father, His First Wife, and Tennessee Williams, as well as two poetry collections, What The Neighbors Know and History of the Body. Her essays and poems have appeared in The Washington Post, The Georgia Review, The Cincinnati Review, Shenandoah, and many other journals.