Name: Alicia Lai

Natural Disaster
by Alicia Lai
When I write an autobiography about death, it won’t be
inspired by loss, not driven by a smoldering
disappearance of something precious. Once, death
decided it was an accident, then let the natural disasters,
all bark and all bite, dance under and out
and it was a lovely plan gone wrong.
watch me burn.
and watch as your world explodes before you,
a haunting, devouring fire so different from the tame
little flames you ran your hands through as a child.
It started in Barcelona, the fault line beginning as
a rickety old car low on gas and a boy
who was eight minutes late, already, to
his best friend’s wedding. The tornado, on the
other hand, was a body under construction,
her playing mermaids and the Susquehanna
under-current, greedy thing, passing
through. Once, the hurricane was a mistake
Daddy made when cleaning his gun. For a
day, it was your body’s message to you
mistaken for one from you
to your ex-boyfriend: I know you don’t
care for me like before; you’re ruining
me but I still insist.
this is an arson that will leave you with singed fingers
and black-coal scars and third-degree burns.
You see, I’ve already gotten
more than I deserve, although it is a common
misconception that things cease to exist
in the dark. I have a good imagination and
every time I’m next to the curb I will
smell smoke and when I pass the window
I will see the bullet coming through and think about
the times I did not win. Sign off a trade of chrysalis
for cocoon, both antennaed and winged;
the unexpected becomes a tragedy, to
moth, not butterfly. We didn’t need to write
an ending after that, because the sky is gray,
mourners cry, a sad story will inevitably have
something to lament about. The house stays
silent in grief until new walls are built over
again. There’s nothing new to say on us: we come,
we go, it rains again.
and still you won’t tear your eyes away, because
there is a sort of beauty in bearing witness
to something un-become.
When my name was somebody, my shadow
had a precipitant throat and an agoraphobic-heel,
and I was a stupid daredevil, the kind
that jumped roofs because they told her no,
poked crabs because she knew
they might snap back. The hurricane soon found
she liked when things under her went ablaze,
things above her went underwater, the sound
of destruction: plastic giving way,
concrete giving way, body and bone,
giving way. The quake placed herself
smack-dab in the middle of lives.
Midnight labor pains, a riot in NYC’s streets,
graffiti on Barcelona’s walls. Drunken teenagers,
the three-year-old’s masterpiece on the bedroom
door, a failed marriage, a magician who can’t
get the trick right. The tornado scraped his knees raw,
landing on all fours, the bike a mangled skeleton
at the bottom of Faith’s Hill. It was a kitchen
blender gone hay-wire, and two hours scraping off tiles;
then, the real thing over at Pearl Harbor.
there will be only ashes afterwards.
After July’s boycott, I grew tired of always playing
the villain, the go-to to point a finger at. Tiger or house-finch,
MVP or bench warmer, queen or not, this is a system of checks and
balances, a scorecard special for karma. Not
a destroyer, but a vessel for moth-metamorphosis. I learned to see,
and to not; to let go, and not. There’s an elephant in the room
but he hasn’t learned to forget. I know more
than any hurricane or earthquake or any forest fire; his
wisdom comes in knowing he’s replaceable,
because you can’t be brave when you’re indestructible.