After the Super Derecho, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, 2012
On the third night of the power outage,
we sat in the living room after dinner
trying to believe, as daylight faded,
that the curtains were swaying not because
someone knocked them stretching,
or reaching to the table for more wine,
but because of an actual breeze
traveling on some repentant front
from high up in the Blue Ridge, where it was cold—
an efficient breeze that maybe still contained
enough coolness to lower the heat
by the few degrees that would let us trade
our oven-like insomnia for sleep.
Then I remembered the election game
Amanda taught me: “Apples or Waffles,”
where everyone votes to save just one,
banishing the other option to oblivion.
Majority ruled. By clockwards turns, we’d
nominate contenders. In the first round, apples
beat waffles, 8 to 3. At apples v. peppercorns,
apples won again—7 to 4. By round five, cats
arrived, and would not be toppled, though the vote
was always close—we lost cars, then planes.
But the moon tipped the scales, and Aaron
nearly left the room, as the reigning moon
spread its ghost light, exposing otherworldly shadows
in a dark and darkening caterwaulessness.
Then clothes (why did we cling to clothes?)
beat out the moon, and electricity
(since we’d been living without it for days),
and then clothes fell to music (as they will),
and so did sex, which stunned the minority.
And then came trees. The trees. Three days before,
the lights went out on us at open studios—
we’d blamed the artists’ digital displays. But then
we heard trees snap in half, and saw by flashlight
at the open door, far away, limbs falling
fast as leaves, bowing ballerina-like over the yard,
crossing the exits with a hero-pyre of saplings.
A rainless hurricane—it arrived without a warning.
All over the property, huge trees blocked the paths—
green walnuts blackening like hell-coins on the ground,
the cedar’s ripped pink pith exposed and alien in the sun.
For two days, Aaron cleared debris out of the pool.
In the game, trees outlasted the ocean, and trees
outlasted words (and Janet noticed, every poet
there chose trees). When words were gone,
we ended the game, and someone muttered
“trees or sleep,” and by then the darkness
covered our faces completely, so we couldn’t see
each other clearly, and we walked out of the house
in darkness, under the trees still left, into a world
we were now unsure of, its stillnesses unfixed,
into a world we could not be sure we hadn’t ruined.
Katy Didden’s first book, The Glacier’s Wake, won the Lena-Miles Wever Todd prize from Pleiades Press. Her work has appeared in many journals, including Forklift: Ohio, Smartish Pace, Poetry, and The Kenyon Review. She earned her PhD from the University of Missouri, and is currently a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.