The Amon Liner Poetry Award EXHALE

Fall 2009: Issue 86

Christine Tobin

I watched the sky and waited. The storm

will come as it comes. Trees in the wind threw

their branches at the evening. Despite the lack

of human voices, or perhaps because of it,

I catalogued noises—

crickets, wind, traffic, drops of water hitting a sink,

hum of appliances, click of the well pump.


Air inside the house stilled during the storm,

though wind continued to strike the hillside

and rain washed down the side of the house.

When the full force of the storm finally hit,

and lights flickered once, then died, the stillness

of the house sounded like the rest

between heartbeats, the sudden quiet

when the morning alarm is shut off pre-dawn.

The house still creaked.

It seemed the logs would tear themselves apart.


After the storm, I waded through the heavy wet grass

to the center of the field. There wasn’t a rainbow,

though far-spaced raindrops sliced through sunshine.

The field’s middle depression was filled with water,

thick in mud and heat. Mosquitoes will be born there,

will nest in the deep puddles and swarm up in summer air.

The house settled at night, air expanding and contracting,

plaster pulling between logs with each breath.

All night, small noises—just the house, the weather, I thought.


In the morning I find the trophy my cat left—

a small creature—a mouse or mole

almost neatly dissected on the rug in front of the cast-iron stove:

body, then head, then organs clustered like whitewashed pebbles.