Stocking for the storm

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Publication: The Christian Century
Author: Walker, Jeanne Murray
Date published: December 27, 2011

I can hear thunder grind against the earth,

vibrate with imprecations. Nature's

tossing down her gauntlet,

promising extended sieges,

threatening to lock us in tragedy

the way she locks a fly in amber,

so I flee to the store, wanting to lay in

plenty. Entering the bright

delirium, I harvest cans of gumbo

and chowder, embrace beets

and turnips who've repented living

as fanged roots. I gather wheat

in tiny wheels of pasta, while a stock boy

wipes his hands on his blue apron

and reaches crackers for a child,

and the scarf lady summons me

to read a label. Mark this,

the inauspicious aisle where

we have met. I say, build an altar.

Let the sideshow of breads praise

our communion. Let chèvre

and camembert commemorate

the place where we say to one another,

Three inches! We're in for it now!

and other liturgies of festive panic.

Because soon enough the thunder

will take back its fulminations,

black clouds break from their huddle,

wheel and gallop off, leaving us shy

and silent, wondering what that holy

moment meant, what this altar signifies,

the brief joy strangers gave to one another.

Jeanne Murray Walker

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