The shaking

Marlena Chertock

View the poem in its correct format here:

The Shaking


The boss’s nephew was in for the day,
connecting legos and making cars,
one graphic designer in charge of his care
while the boss dealt with custody the next town over.

He was eating his second slice of pizza
when there was a rumble, not from his stomach
but 20 miles away, where deep beneath the crust
land was rubbing and gliding,
stimulating something more at our level,
and I lifted my fingers from my page 12 edit marks,
I thought about the Cold War,
asked, “Should we hide under our desks?”
I’d never been trained what to do for the shaking.

“Is there a train under us?” the boy asked.
My editor’s eyebrows curved inward,
she got up and ran to the doorway,
told us to follow, huddle
in between two doorframes.

The floor shook faster and harder,
the boy gripped the doorframe, whimpered.
When people press a button
thousands of feet overhead,
your village is bombed,
compressed buildings,
the crack spider-webbing down the wall,
the design award tilted on nails.


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