Island Living


Being close to the ocean brought storms,

sometimes whipped to a frenzy

worth a name, a designation;

like Hurricane Gloria


storms to rip up trees and peel back roofs,

storms to board up windows and cancel school.

But most were of the quieter sort,

leaving gutter mouths


stopped with leaves and soda cans,

the streets gleaming in a new wet

to steam up wisps in the cul-de-sacs.

It wasn’t the rain that bothered me,


or even the thunder;

but thunder at the heels of flashes,

in a constant march –

with black and rain and me


buried beneath blankets, counting,

for distance, in between.

Summers, those flashes came alone –

heat lightening – white streaking


cloud to cloud –

it never came down and didn’t mean rain,

just lit up the parched lawns

and the sizzle stillness of the air.


The screened-in porch jutted

off the back side of the house, with orange soda stains

leeched into the concrete.  My parents

liked to sit there – beneath that wall-less roof –


to watch these flashes, feel the shift

in the air that set my stunned skin to chill.

They’d swirl sweet tea, or grip beer cans

silver and sweating into palms – an audience


in danger, standing targets in metal mesh,

and I’d watch through the glass, pleading

silent for them to come inside, begging

my body to move beyond the door,


to let my face press into a warm chest

settle my hips and belly

safe between knees,

my back to the view, held.


Tomara Aldrich received an MA in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College in 2014 and an MFA from Hunter College in New York City in 2004,where she was the recipient of the Mary M. Fay Award for Poetry. She has been featured in Big City Lit, was selected to participate in the CUNY Arts Festival, at The Center for Humanities, and was published in the anthology Women. Period. from Spinster’s Ink. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her wife and son and works at Columbia University.