The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Brad Johnson

How the Other Half Lives


Half the residents of Florida are fools
who spend upwards of $50,000 on shatter-proof window glass,
$20,000 on accordion shutters or invest three to five
hours slicing appendages, twisting knee and elbow joints
on ladders in high, last minute winds while installing
steel shutter panels with wing nuts. Or they pay
random dudes a thousand dollars cash to put
the shutters up and another thousand to take them down.

The other half, like reverse Cassandras, insists
the worst won't hit, refer to the storm map
as conjecture and theorize that hurricane-category wind
won’t extend further than 40 miles outside
the eye and we’ll be well outside the cone.

Megan’s front doors burst in and the neighbor’s bike flew
into the living room as though flung by a giant.
Beneath a mattress in her parents’ bathtub she gripped
its swollen edges like a parachute every time the storm sucked
breath from their, now, roofless home. She considered
praying but the wind would only erase her voice.

Dumb Gary walked his wife’s Bichon during the eye
thinking the storm passed. He whispered how lucky
he felt living on the west side of the street; the side
where none of the pool enclosures collapsed.
I didn’t tell him we’re in the eye, that the winds
will be reversing, the storm returning back for his screen
but watched, three hours later, as he lifts the arms
of the aluminum framing from his pool like masts from some half-sunk
clipper ship, the black screens soaked like torn sails.

Under a Hurricane Warning, 36 hours before the winds,
the shelves of liquor stores empty of tequila before Wal-Mart starts
rationing cases of water, before the gas station pumps
run dry. After the storm, half of all Floridians drink
from the punch bowl of schadenfreude as they bicycle
through their neighborhoods evaluating the damage
or lack thereof. Half of Floridians are fools
but it’s impossible to tell which half until after the storm wobbles
west or speeds north toward the Carolinas.




BRAD JOHNSON's first full-length poetry collection The Happiness Theory (Main Street, 2013) is available at Work of his has also been accepted by The Antioch Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, J Journal, Meridian, Poet Lore, Salamander, Southern Indiana Review, Tar River Poetry and others. 



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