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On The Ineptitude of Certain Hurricanes

We look back to the not too distant past to bring you Cate Marvin’s “On The Ineptitude of Certain Hurricanes”  (issue #52).

Filled with lines that demand to be re-read and images that linger, the poem, which now reads prophetic and familiar, was an immediate favorite for many of us on staff. We hope you’ll fall for it too.

By Cate Marvin

As the leering boss poised by a photocopier
might prevent a secretary from completing
a simple task, she will approach the machine,
dread-filled, ocean’s stomach of inevitability—
for certainly he will lean to her shell-small

ear (pinched with a plain pearl) to impart
his jism, words jetting deep up from within
his throat: the grocery stores are ransacked.
Generators battled for. Gallons of water lugged
beneath arms to car trunks. As if we might die.

Only past midnight rain begins its sluicing
through tree branches, lashes streets’ tarry
lengths, runnels its hasty murks down drains.
Wait for it to hit. One waits, does not sleep.
As if it’s better to be struck while conscious.

Which brings us to the question of why it is
only tonight that we stay awake, lie in wait
for its punch. Brings us to the question of how
is it that we, as a highly developed species, are
even capable of sleep, since strikes lie always

in wait, even when hurricane is not a season,
this weather that cannot but be our own, is all
that of which we are ourselves capable. Stand
in cashier lines and your jawline dies to break
at the impact of an anonymous fist. Because you

talk too much. Because of your lips. Have you
not been told, in no uncertain terms, you’ll die
before your time, by an individual who in no
uncertain terms wants you to die? So lie dead
to this wind, unnoose yourself from weather,

because oblivion becomes us. Waking, I clear
glasses from tables, empty ashtrays, go out for
a drive. See whole red clouds of tree heads sunk
onto sidewalks, sirens stream scarlet embers
along the surfaces of knee-deep puddles. Every

single block’s been hit, minus mine. Minus me,
I can’t complain. Minus me means a vacation from
me. Yet, will my lovers be concerned by my absence?
This problem is quickly solved since I have none.
Go ahead, yank my insides out. Name your pleasure.

Cate Marvin’s second book, Fragment of the Head of a Queen, appeared in 2007. The poems in this issue are from her third book, a work in progress that is forthcoming from Norton. A Whiting Writers’ Award recipient, Marvin is an associate professor at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York, and cofounder of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.

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Posted in From The Vault, Poetry

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