After the Storm

After the storm, we took out our 10 cent brooms and brushed puddles into corners and edges. My people waited for the trees to claim back possessions of the earth that had been thrust upon us, bits of ice and snow and lava. We expected that if we survived the winds prior, we would be welcomed into the sun that kissed our crops and children. Three years came and went and then three generations of women with names more broken, we forgot what it meant to not wade through waters in the morning. We made salty storm soup on Sundays for our sons, mixed in our new sins as seasoning: the way my grandfather gave my father a silver plate and not his sister, as did the family down the road. Because that is the way things are done now, the way things have to be. We told stories of the day we stuffed towels in our chimneys to keep the ground dry and our people healthy, the gold necklace my mother gave me from “before it all,” which is to say, before the British took things. Slowly, we absorbed the floods and our skin grew loose. We forgot that the humid air had once been considered a form of torture, we cooperated and conceded. We bloated, our eyelashes ever-heavy with moisture, we painted self-portraits now, gave ourselves names like “liberated” and “freedom fighter.” As if we had a chance to turn our land back to the tides of dryness and its simplistic chaos, as if we could have a chance punching the rain as it fell upon us, it took decades for the torrential violence to be silenced. As if our anger at the new order could banish the swamp as our home. We became creatures of the swamp, forgot what it meant to exist outside our disciplines, the ways we counted our world the same way the lightning and thunder had, I think we knew, we know, that it whispered to us in its violence, and though it broke windows and cut our loved ones, we couldn’t help but recall the temporary floods that came and went years before the storm. Things were never dry the way we remembered. Our home had always been a place of wetness. They had just added their extra brand of brine to the mix. In some ways, we thought they became us. You would think we might wonder if we had become them. We didn’t.