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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Why I Married the First Man Who Asked Me

Waiting for the big one

we went on living normal lives,

shaken from time to time by

     small rumblings—

just your ordinary earthquake:

the dishes clatter on the shelves,

as when a door slams upstairs

and heavy feet stamp.

When we were young, I’d grab my brother’s hand,

yank him to the nearest doorway—

“Stand where the structure’s strongest”

the instructions said, (the school pamphlet,

the radio announcements) so we did,

though without much faith in this

     or any other structure.

In later years we’d jump for separate doorways,

eyeing each other

     across the room.

After the floor stopped shifting sideways,

we all stepped warily,

(those who emerged)

not talking much, for fear we’d

shake loose the thin remorseful dust

and rattle the pebbles down

the steep-pitched slopes

                    of recent angers.

The aftershocks, they say, can go on

for years. Years later, the next quake is

     this one’s little brother,

grown strong and vengeful.

I know all about that.

This solid earth is webbed with cracks,

whole families of faults.

Movement that relieves strain here,

increases tension there.

Faults are normal, I know;

everyone’s got their share.

But these seemed, some of them,

     perverse.

After a bad day, it was hard to know

     what to do.

You’d move a stone, looking for light,

and cause an avalanche,

     another injury.

Better to keep still,

Awaiting rescue from outside.

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