Claudia Emerson

(13 January 1957 / Chatham, Virginia)

Ground Truth

Poem by Claudia Emerson

My brother's funeral over, the dark-clothed
congregation clots the church doors, a lingering

aftermath moving into flat light—the sky
low and swollen, a storm siren's long

expansive notes, evenly measured,
so loud the pauses between ring

with aftersound. Used to it, no one
here appears alarmed, the church ladies

filing into his house bearing heavy covered
dishes, the funeral flowers. On the muted

television tuned to the weather,
a small area of Watch now upgrades

to Warning; the words stream across the bottom
of the screen calling conditions perfect,

this town, this house disappeared beneath the map's
isolated lesion, its red edges

uneven, stalled. The forecasters rely
they say on spotters to confirm

what the radar cannot—they call it
ground truth; until then no one knows anything

for certain beyond this inward watching.
The room hums, an airless, crowded hive.

Their mouths are full, plates layered—fried chicken,
deviled eggs, casseroles, bright congealed

salads with fruit suspended inside.
All of it dust. I have come here too late,

his body gone, already ash. The storm's body
could be forming now, tightening from cloud

to the gyre that will consume its path, all of it
a becoming—spiraling a wall of water,

mud, dust, and sand; with dispassion taking up
into itself the fence line, a barn—the house

beside them spared with the same dispassion. Or this,
more likely now: siren silenced, the winds

diminishing, the light, afternoon's concession
to another dusk—severe, more common truth.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 28, 2018