What had been streams in the alley
hardened to brutal glass.
Clouds roared overhead
like blue-veined continents;
everywhere, power-lines and tree limbs
lay in the affronted road.
The house seemed to flinch
under the sky’s cold fist,
which slammed the backyard gate
and banged on the downspout.
The grass, hard now as leather,
creaked when you walked on it;
you pitied anyone who was out
and wondered how outdoor animals
fared in that combing wind.
A rabbit crouched under a bush.
A crow on top of a cottonwood
surfed the clicking branch ends
and with obsidian insolence
shook his wings at God.
James Armstrong has published poems in Gulf Coast, Orion, The Snowy Egret, The New York Times Book Review, Shade, Poetry East and elsewhere. He is the author of two books, Monument in a Summer Hat (New Issues Press, 1999) and Blue Lash (Milkweed Editions, 2006). Armstrong is a recipient of the PEN-New England Discovery Prize, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship in poetry. He is a Professor of English at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota.