On the Cusp of a Nor’Easter
(prose poem)

So my friend calls from Indiana. I tell her of my sister’s new job. I am relieved and happy, because my friend’s been struggling with sufferings that would drive me mad. She sounds well and has a chance to tell me some about her family on her way to church to help lead (in technical matters) a Bible study there. It is cold here. It is colder there (single-digit degrees for many days). When she must ring off, she does. I am at the coffeemaker and place the backside of the phone on a spiral burner on the stovetop (everything turned off). While the coffee’s cooking, I clean out some plastic bottles into which I put tap water to drink throughout the day. Not thinking at first, I place the cleaned-out bottles just outside the burner circle set upon the stove. When I’ve done this four times, I have four empty bottles cornering a phone set on a burner plate of labyrinthine form. I’m sure there is a deity for winter (generally, Persephone, though I’m thinking there’s one for winter only), and have I not built a small, strange contemporary altar to her. A narrow receiver (wireless) offered up inside four plastic monoliths keeping in their stillness their own kind of sentinel watching. Is this supplication? I want my friend to be well. I want her husband to enjoy retirement and her daughter have success at school. I want the cold to move on, over there, though for a Midwest winter season, I guess what is endured is rather normal. (Still too cold.) My temps in southern Pennsylvania still have two digits. But we are called to be ourselves storm-ready against a coming, miles-wide soon-arriving gale. It smacks the South and later rounds out to sea—on the way releasing slivering ice and snow and the season’s other dangers onto our regional metropoles: D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. And in my small town? I pray for navigable roads. In my small place, I pray for electricity’s constancy—that it might faithfully provide sufficient heat in rapport with the thermostat. And now I guess I wait. We wait. I clear the stove and leave on the burner now a single cup, ready for coffee. The empty ceramic vessel a suburban symbol of encouragement and also, I think, of supplication.

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