Torso of a Woman

Like touching her without fingers, then having fingers, the discharge of electricity may take place between one part of a cloud and another, one cloud and another, a cloud and the earth. In the postcard, lightning is three-pronged above a single house, like a fork sinking into a piece of white cake. Being touched without warning, a person is likely to jump or make an animal-like noise, unfamiliar as your own recorded voice, but the house stays still. Inside one bedroom, a child might wake to lightning and think of her legs under the covers for reasons she doesn’t immediately understand. I am interested in suddenness.

If there is no way to prepare, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you think about the hundreds of possible outcomes, it sounds like a truck crashing through the roof. Listening awake, I will hold my body as still as possible. Doing nothing is an action. Prayer is an action. The house I grew up in has the same iron address numbers nailed to a rectangular board, but the new owner wouldn’t let me or my father in. Because we were over. Because, in the big picture, we own nothing. Afraid at night, when you enter someone else’s room, it is important to whisper her name before you touch her, so she knows you are approaching, and does not become alarmed.

Thunder is louder than a human voice could ever protest, and without a pattern. There’s no way to be sure. In 1939, after The Wizard of Oz was released, seventeen girls ran from their homes, open-armed, into tornadoes and died. I suppose it was just a way to feel certain, to encounter, violently, the verge of relief, just as, in a storm, the front door rips off at the rusted hinges, no longer separating the house from the earth. Without a door, it is not your house. Without a house, the children are not sane. I’d wait for the whine of the garage door at night, a broken man’s whine, my father’s warm, humming bones, then reversed, like the sky coming down. If only the rain would ease into sleep with me, soak through and be finished, I could breathe.