A little trick we have or have not learned–Jim Harrison
In Anchorage, she put her maroon boots by the bed
in case she needed to run when an earthquake hit.
She woke feeling the bed rocking like a hammock.
Would buildings collapse, roads buckle, or bedroom walls
slide side to side before crashing together?
Five hits then it was over. Turnagain-by-the-Sea was gone
as if a giant mouth bit off then spit out those fancy houses
into the ocean below. A megathrust underwater landslide
came inland, twisted railroad tracks into Copper River
and rolled to a stop at 4th Street.
In Los Alamitos, she put on her red sneakers ready for a field trip
with her fourth graders. They chased each other on the playground
waiting for the start-of-school bell to ring. That’s when she felt it hit,
knew an earthquake was on the move. She instinctively crawled
beneath her teacher-desk, looked out to see the classroom piano lurch
across the room gaining speed with each sharp report of splitting
tectonic plates. Was the earthquake connected to wearing red shoes?
When it stopped, she ran out to join her students who’d corralled themselves
in the field far from anything that could drop.
Her book group was discussing Women of the Silk when windows began
to rattle. She saw she’d worn her cherry-red flats, said, Must be an earthquake.
No one agreed—there weren’t earthquakes in Ashland.
When the next jolt hit, everyone stood and rushed through the door.
A strange silence followed her through town and when she got home
she opened a window to listen. Then it began: first a boom from distant mountains,
then echoes closer as if rock ridges were clapping, sending sound sliding off crests
of hills. Again a boom shouting, This time the earth is changing.
Patty Wixon’s most recent book is Dear Spoon. Her previous collections are Side Effects and Airing the Sheets. In 2014, Patty and her husband Vince received the Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for contributions to the literary life of Oregon.