In this city, God makes regular appearances, though maintaining distance
while purifying air—cleaning neighborhoods and institutions,
and the undeniably phallic capital—via incredible electric branches
of purple–white, thunder that registers on the Richter, and this morning
brings no sun with it. A visual dawn has not arrived, so I sit in the dark,
not just in my ignorance, but in the dark of a day, a thirty–first day
of a summer month, a thirty–first that has not shown itself to be anything
other than continued night and rain. Because of the dark, I cannot see
whether any spiders are on the couch, whether any eyes crawl near.
I have heard something about checking drains and bathtubs during storms,
but I’m afraid what I might find. I’m often afraid, which, I confess, does not free me
from responsibility. It was not long ago that I watched a wolf spider hunt
a smaller arachnid, the smaller creature running until she reached the corner
of my sliding glass doors. Her pause, then, was palpable in its grief,
as if she knew what happened next, and I’ve been there: I felt her hesitation.
I sensed what was coming. Like her, I did not know where to go,
whether there was even a feasible option. At that point, she turned to face him.
The wolf spider settled himself, tapped his legs. Such audacity one wears
with power, with closing doors. I wondered, then, if this is what God feels: a sourness
between the teeth, stone fruit of foreknowledge, of observer status.
I decided to turn away. I did not stay to see what the wolf did to her,
how it finished. I documented my lack of courage, but, despite the storm
outside my living room, I have not been cleared. Regardless of want, I am not air
to be washed, made new, by forks of lightning, unfortunate as this admission is.
Why I did nothing to intervene, when I recognized the being–cornered,
the door locking, help far away and uninvolved, is something for which I will be held
accountable, whether on the thirty–first of today or once the weather passes.
The rainfall lessens now. Instead of torrent, stream. God wavers, sometimes,
before moving. Sometimes, I find, God doesn’t move at all.
Tara Ballard is the author of House of the Night Watch (New Rivers Press), winner of the 2016 Many Voices Project. Her poems have been published in The Adirondack Review, Diode, Ibbetson Street, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Normal School, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere, and her work won a 2019 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize. She is currently pursuing her PhD in English at the University of Nebraska.