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(Ocean Springs, Mississippi, August 30, 2005, the day after Katrina made landfall.)

She comes slinking in late for the party, empty-handed and all dolled up
in a soiled taffeta dress. She finds you sleeping, nude on the slab, and licks 

with her mossy boozy tongue the length of your grimy thigh. She’s 
one of those girls who lies down drunk in a big windy swish on your 

divan and that’s the end of that and you ain’t never getting her out. 
She comes in after the freight train roar of the storm surge, after 

the water with her slapping hips and grand castle of meticulousness 
has had her way with it all. She is the water’s little sister, not quite as 

pretty, but three times as  stubborn with something to prove. She comes 
in quiet, like prayer.  She can’t make a preacher cuss, can’t make him 

speak in tongues, but she is the new truth – the word, etched into every  
drenched surface, never uttered aloud. She tiptoes in while the grown-ups 

fight, like a pregnant teenager through an evening window, out past
curfew and tipping over the sill. The quiet slaps the hand of snickering 

children and smothers the mouths of fucking lovers with her palm. You
cannot escape her. She is obliteration in a see through chemise. When 

the quiet comes, she’s hungry, and even after she’s gobbled up the birds,
their wee petite wings crispy in her teeth, even after she’s sipped the pulp 

of every last dragon fly and supped up the oil off every drowned cat, she
still holds a twin set of muddy god-damn-Uncle-Poot-shot-enough-to-

score-a-twelve-pack nutria females under the bathwater, their rubbery  
tails knocking suds over the edge, sopping her scabby knees, until they’re 

quiet, until they float  one last time. And then she eats them, too. The quiet
is satisfied with nothing less than oblivion: she shushes the babies and 

stifles the wives. She is a husband’s raised hand and the sting that won’t
settle on a porcelain cheek. She yanks and twists the royal blue robes up 

over the heads and into the mouths of the choir. She is the new hymn,
exalting her praise to destruction. She is your daily chorus, endlessly

repeating. You’ll never forget her song. No place to rest in the quiet. She’s
the ice box stopped, the leaf blower come to heavenly conclusion. She’s 

got Michael Brown by the shirt collar and she’s bound him with violet
feather boas before stuffing him into a FEMA trailer back closet and 

turning the lock. She’s the opposite of birdsong, enemy of buzz, she’s
pulled the tongues from thirty-two miles of lost dogs wandering the coast. 

She snakes through the leafless trees and the cracked carcass of what
used to be your home. The quiet, she’s a breeze - buck naked, with 

nothing to strum. She’s the moment before the moment, right before
the power comes back and the breaker explodes. She’s leaking into every 

broken up waterlogged surface of your life, leaking like the breasts of
your daughter’s best friend’s mother. The quiet wasn’t there as the family axed 

through the third story  rooftop. The quiet doesn’t care they held on
six hours to a tree. She only showed up the next day, sauntering in to 

the room when  Baby, their smallest boy, quietly died of water poisoning
when no one was looking. The quiet leaks warm milky rivulets on the 

mourning mother’s borrowed dress. She’s there in the eyes of the sister,
she’s there in the frost of the morgue.  No one gets buried in the quiet, 

while the earth  is too sodden and the mausoleums have been reduced 
to dusty piles of marble and bone. She’s the sadness, the nonsense 

lullaby, she’s the funeral hush. She saunters, tosses your Don’t Loot
I’ll Shoot sign down, puts your pistol in your mama’s lace brassiere.

She is calm and catastrophe, one. 
She is calm and catastrophe, both. 

She comes in an unspoken promise, that girl, after the surge, and wraps
her slight thighs around your hips and she hangs on tight, bucking up 

against every bright moment of your devastation. The quiet is your
confirmation. She’s set you down on a life of broken glass, and she loves 

your bare feet. The quiet comes, wrapping her aching body around you,
her budlike breasts pushing up against your lungs, tickling and moistening 

the skin of your ear with her terrible, silent tongue. Finally, whispering,
Dance, pretty girl, dance. The quiet is your unrequited lover, come finally 

to take you: a gun to your throat, a diamond ring in her mouth. She locks
your thighs in her ghastly grip, and never stops kissing you while she fucks. 

Posted 09/04/14
THE QUIET first appeared in CUTTHROAT 14 as the winner of the Cutthroat Discovery Prize and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
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