Home > Poetry > History of Hurricanes
Published: Fri Apr 15 2005
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
History of Hurricanes

Because we cannot know—

we plant crops, make love in the light of our not-knowing

A Minuteman prods cows from the Green with his musket,
his waxed paper windows snapping in the wind,
stiletto stalks in the herb garden upright—Now

blown sideways—Now weighted down in genuflection,

not toward,

And a frail man holding an Imari teacup paces at daybreak
_                        _in his courtyard in Kyoto

a cherry tree petaling the stones pink and slippery
_                        _in the weeks he lay feverish

waiting for word from the doctor, checking for signs—Now

in the season of earthenware sturdiness and dependency
_                        _it must begin, the season of his recovery

_                                                           _ ~

No whirling dervish on the radar, no radar,
no voices warning—no Voice—fugue of trees, lightning

Because we cannot know, we imagine

What will happen to me without you?


I know some things I remember—

the Delaware River two stories high inside the brick houses
cars floating past Trenton like a regiment on display
brown water climbing our basement stairs two at a time


Like months of remission—
_                                           _the eye shifts

the waxed paper windows
_        _burst behind the flapping shutters—

and how could he save his child after that calm,
a man who’d never seen a roof sheared off?


Across town the ninth graders in their cut-offs:
Science sucks, they grouse. Stupid history of hurricanes.

No one can remember one;

velocity, storm surge—
_                                               _ abstractions
the earth churns as Isabel rips through Buzzard’s Bay

A hurricane, as one meaning has it:
a large crowded assembly of fashionable people at a private house


The river cannot remember its flooding—

_        _I worry you will forget to check
_                                                   _the watermarks in time

An echo of feet on stone is all the neighbors
_                               _knew of their neighbor,
_                                                   _a lover of cherry trees

and of his wife who prayed for him at the shrine
her hair swept up in his favorite onyx comb

See what's inside AGNI 61

Teresa Cader teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University. Her books include History of Hurricanes (2009), The Paper Wasp (1999), and Guests (1991). She has won the Norma Farber First Book Award, The Journal Award in Poetry, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the George Bogin Memorial Award, and fellowships from the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, Bread Loaf, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the MacDowell Colony. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Slate, The Atlantic Monthly, PoetryHarvard ReviewAGNI, and elsewhere. (updated 10/2011)

Cader’s The Paper Wasp was reviewed in AGNI 51 by Larissa Szporluk.

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