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Queens, NY, August 2, 2002

Heat waves piggybacked through late July. August, and the
indoor thermometer says ninety-two degrees. So, sweating,
I go out near dusk to buy a fan at the Jackpot discount store up the block.

Back on the street with Jackpot’s last fan, I see
the gunmetal sky black with roiling clouds
to the west. I heft my window fan and plunge across the
street through traffic. Small drops tease my hair now, and
the deluge will not be long in coming. So, at my building,
I set the fan down beside me, and,
sheltered under the front awning,
I wait. Tree branches toss,
the air churns, celebrating the storm.
Neighbors scurry in, holding their grocery bags close.

Across the side street, fellow apartment dwellers, lacking flag poles,
have draped their stars and stripes out the windows, clamping
them with the window sashes, sacrificing precious airflow.
The flags curl and billow to the rhythm of the approaching rain.
Out another window, frail white curtains hang unprotected
against the brick face of the building, tossing and kicking up
their hems in the blow. I take a deep breath and taste the salt of ocean.
My neighbor across the way plays his flute, as he always does,
to announce something of note on the street.

I look up to see the glint of his instrument
through the fifth-floor window,
then I step from under the awning to wait for the cloudburst,
my face lifted, my hands turned upward.

Barbara Barnard has published fiction and poetry in various literary magazines, including The Cimarron Review, New Letters, Main Channel Voices, The Nassau Review, and Eclipse. Her textbook Access Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama appeared from Wadsworth publishers in 2006. She has also recently completed the ms. of a novel. Barbara has taught creative writing and literature at various colleges in California and New York. Currently, she lives in Queens, New York and teaches at Nassau Community College/SUNY.

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