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Errors that Multiply into Catastrophe

                                    Al Maginnes


No bats. No prong-toothed wolves
            or rapacious coyotes. No menace
firm enough for a bullet
            or dram of mundane poison.
It might be simple weather, the storm
            television has tracked for two days,
storm with the name of a woman,
            that flickers my blood till I wake
and walk a shadow thin
            as a second hand over dark
kitchen linoleum. The storm might turn,
            descend on us like the hawk
that whispers blood and drops
            onto a field mouse weaving
its skittish path through long grass.
            In a news story before the weather,
a man I’ve known for three years,
            his face glazed with the pinched look
of prey, proclaimed himself
            innocent of the charges of fraud
against him. Last week, he was
            a local success; now he is
a character in a story with no safe ending.
            Lately I read mysteries
so quickly I forget their titles,
            not to fantasize revenge
or justice, but to dwell a while
            in that elemental world,
where logic, however moody,
            governs action and decides guilt.
The characters who survive
            reach the end with their faith intact.
If the storm comes, it will come
            too quickly for luck or faith,
will leave innocent and guilty alike
            the torn-loose wires and helpless
shards of lives struck and scattered.
            Storms gather, like a book’s chapters,
in the realm beyond guilt
            and innocence. Perhaps I read so much
because I want to erase the pages
            of errors that multiply
into catastrophe, friends
            who become defendants. I want
to believe the thin explanations
            for bounced checks, payments missed,
work contracted and never done.
            I want to sleep and wake to find
the storm passed, saving us
            the trouble of speaking her name.


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