It had been snowing for hours
when the pounding began.
Thinking it one of my teenage children
finally home on a Friday night but without a key,
I left my book to open the door
and into the kitchen’s warmth flew chaos.

A young woman, shaking in a thin dress,
snow-covered hair and no shoes,
arms flailing at something I could not see,
and then the sudden silence
as she yanked me down to a crouch
So he won’t see us.

What brings such disorder to mind now?
On this morning’s walk, we found
the storm had rearranged the strand.
A foot or more of sand was washed away exposing
jagged rockcrops we hadn’t known were there.

On hands and knees, the girl and I
watched from the hall window
a slow dark sedan slide by,
snow falling in its headlights.
Her fingernails biting my arm, the quick
Shhh—he will kill me if he sees us.

My husband was upstairs and oblivious
doing something we called sleeping fast
as he’d have to drive in a few short hours
unploughed roads across two states to reach his job.

When I was a girl, a woman came waving
a silver revolver at another back door.
Only glass between.
My mother who liked to read mysteries late into the night
let this stranger in and sat chatting with her
at the kitchen table while I listened
from the next room. I kept trying to picture
where the gun was.

By the time my sons and daughter got home,
the ambulance was gone.
On the table by his morning cup and bowl
a note for my husband.

And my mother and her woman with the gat
as it was handed down in family stories,
what was she thinking? What was I?
I always knew I would do anything
to keep my family safe
but where had my good sense flown?

Her pupils were dilated.
As they lifted the stretcher,
all I could do was give her hand a squeeze
and tell her it would be okay. Damn it.
Even as her body surrendered to the straps,
I couldn’t help being glad to see her go,

but something wild had visited,
something had knocked at the storm door
and been let in.