Waiting for Hurricanes – a poem by Diane Elayne Dees

Waiting for Hurricanes

For most of my adult life, 
I’ve been waiting for hurricanes.
Sometimes, while watching the news
from a hotel far away, but usually,
in my house, surrounded by lanterns
and water bottles, a mobile phone,
a bin of batteries, and my anxious thoughts.
The bird feeders, nest bottles and wind chimes
have been hauled to the garage, 
the potted plants shoved against the back wall.

I fill the bathtub, arrange the bucket. 
The lanterns are all LED now, 
and they reveal my delusion 
of keeping a clean house. 
The sky has a greenish cast, 
and I can smell the hurricane 
as it approaches. The power goes out, 
and I wait for the sound of limbs
hitting my roof. After the storm, 
I will haul limbs all over my yard;
maybe I will wait for the roofer 
and the tree removal crew.

The power will come back on, and then it will go 
out again. Next week, I may do it all again.
Waiting for hurricanes is a way of life
that suits me more than I care to admit.
For as long as I can remember,
I’ve lived in the Cone of Uncertainty,
wondering which part of my patched-together
existence may collapse—knowing 
that when part of it does collapse,
the world doesn’t stop. My shelter is flimsy,
even when I think it can withstand a storm.
Some things can be replaced; some cannot.

Loss occurs every moment, but we do not notice
because the eye of the hurricane is over us,
lulling us into our false beliefs. But those of us 
who know hurricanes, those who have lived 
with them for decades, are not fooled. 
We know that the most beautiful, 
the most established, the most cherished
structures can be wiped away 
with one strong wind, one eight-foot surge,
one accident, one divorce, one election.
And so we wait—with our water bottles,
our lanterns, our batteries—hoping 
for the best, but knowing 
that we are not in control,
and that we never have been.

Diane Elayne Dees is the author of the chapbook, Coronary Truth (Kelsay Books); she has two other chapbooks forthcoming. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world.

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