HOW TO FLOAT ON A CLOUD | Renee Agatep traces the connections between sisters and daughters, and the women who came before.
by Renee Agatep
We saved a village you know, the day of the tornado
The little one said,
I remember. Where do they live now?
Right over there. Don’t you see them?
It had been raining and raining for days that summer and the playground
at the nearby school was flooded. Amy ran up the metal stairs of the yellow,
twirling slide that reached for the sky and shot out its spout at a breakneck pace,
shooting like a rocket straight into mud past her shins. A siren cried out
somewhere in the distance
Hurry! We’ve got to the save them!
The big one is Amy, furiously scooped the mud
about her feet from the pools of murky water onto the foot
of the yellow slide. As it turns out,
there was a whole civilisation of people who lived
near the end of the slide who were so tiny
we couldn’t even see them. The pools of dark sludge oozed
right to the edge of their invisible houses, but we saved them
from the deluge and the deadly landslides
that would have otherwise
wiped them out.
We had no care that day for our
mothball wardrobes scraps that came from big black garbage bags
lingering with Dove soap from our grandma’s last hasty visit.
The siren wailed on, but the rain stopped and the sky
turned green and quiet. Those tiny families looked up at us giants
with so much gratitude while we dug into the dark slips
of clay and earth, filling our fingernails and spattering our faces
brown. How many lives were saved that day, all because of Amy?
The neighbour looked over her glasses at us,
Were you girls out in the tornado?
We stomped the mud from our shoes and
pants onto the slanted steps, quietly closing the broken door of the dilapidated house
on Gamble Street.
But when the siren stopped, we’d returned home
cold, wet heroes
so I used the trick where
I thought about the summer day before we moved to Shelby. Grandma
laid next to me in the yard and we looked up at the summer’s cotton ball clouds. I’d asked
What are you looking at up there, Grandma?
Grandma wiped a tear from her eye, still breathing heavily from the fight
she’d had with my mother in the house. We’d run barefoot through the grassy side
yard until we couldn’t hear them anymore.
I’m just floating on a cloud.
What do you do up there? Well, God is up there.
How do you do that? Here
You just look up at the cloud and you can imagine you’re up there. Floating around.
She rubbed my hand in hers; the translucent brown skin hardly masked the blue
of her veins, a network of ancestors churning, burning between her bones.
I’ll be up there. And if you ever need me you just look up at that cloud.
You’re up there right now? Just floating around?
Yes. Anytime I want. And God, too.
Where? Right up there. Don’t you see Her?
Renee Agatep | @GoingbyRenee
Renee Agatep writes of her rust belt beginnings in Ohio and now lives in St. Augustine, Florida. Renee earned her master’s at Northeastern University and is currently studying creative writing at the University of Central Florida. Her poetry is forthcoming in Dunes Review and Peregrine Journal.