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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

after the storm


The doors in the apartment are slamming shut from phantom hands. The sky goes dark, from that Spring pale blue to something green, even purple. Rain smacks against dirty windows. The trees outside, freshly green are bending hard. A wind whips through the city, triggering car alarms. The trees pull and bend, their arms wild, like they are underwater. I realize the window on the balcony is open. It is already flooding when I close it. The window in the bedroom is the same, a cold puddle on the floor.

Now everything is closed, and the wind whistles through the cracks. Roofs are ripping from the tops of low houses. Trees are falling. Traffic lights lean and then tip over onto the sidewalk. Metal signs fly from old hinges, slicing into traffic.

Ten people died that day, many wounded, tens of thousands of dollars of damage.

Later, the sound of chainsaws hum from downstairs. They chop the fallen trees into random pieces, and leave them there. The piles of wet leaves and branches begin to rot in the hot sun that follows. Roots hang upside-down, as dirt-clodded mouths hang open. A black Mercedes splashes through the puddles. Children play in a sandbox, wearing ski hats and down vests.

At night, the wind picks up again. A few days later there is a tornado in another part of the country.

I think to take pictures of the remains of the trees. There is a broken piece of sidewalk I shoot and an old woman passes, eyeing me like I am a cold war spy caught in the act.
"And then what is going to happen?" She asks me, a jab, an accusation.

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