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The Mother Hears the Tornado Sirens Stop

  The scene: a bathtub, dry

  by Catherine Pierce

  In the space left by the ceasing
  of the sirens and her baby’s howls,
  she hears everything. The cottony sound
  of her own breath ratcheting in and out.
  The light fixture buzzing quietly.
  The wrecked town outside
  with its green mournful growl.
  She stands, and hears her shins unpeel
  from the porcelain: a comic noise
  in some other movie. Her son’s
  small grunt of protest as she shifts
  his sleeping weight. The next county over,
  the rising discord of terror, clanking
  like a thousand car parts. The small metallic
  click of the brass knob as she moves
  into the hallway. The hallway, still there,
  droning its low dominant pitch
  of shadows and neglected houseplants.
  The moment before she opens
  the front door: her sleeping son’s heart
  thudding against her own, its cadence
  quick and even—steady enough,
  she hopes, to anchor them both
  in the new, world-strewn world.  

    Mantis 12

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