A flare when we close our eyes, felt but not seen,
the soft plump of a transformer blowing in the middle distance:
a fire behind us, some chemical that burns in the absence of oxygen,
livid with rage but gasping for breath.
So this is solstice-time,
and green-glazed petals drop from
artificial plants, and the neighbor's TV
blares unintelligibly, and her curtains sway.
A young girl, just out of high school, maybe,
asks in a singsong voice:
"While you are in this facility is reading important to you?
Is it very important? Somewhat important? Not important at all?" and
"While you are in this facility how important is going outside?
Is it very important? Somewhat important? Not important at all?"
Outside? I wonder what she can mean:
the parking lot? or the courtyard?
It turns out, as the questions go on, our neighbor would like
some magazines to read. This is noted.
"While you are in this facility are social activities important to you?
Are they very important? Somewhat important? Not important at all?"
And it goes on, until we are wracked with pity
for the damned racist harridan who glares at my stepfather's
accented English. What are social activities to her? She
doesn't know anyone but her son, and he doesn't come.
Outside -- there is an outside, though you can't believe it
until you get there, beyond ransom or reason or hope --
the gray clouds climb each other's backs to the height of high,
and a fresh wind ruffles the trees. The rain is in our faces,
all the way from the sea and over the hills, high over the back-laced
Tualatin River, landing on our white and frightened faces:
a sudden grace, a waking from nightmare,
a shock from the pleasant country of life.