Summer Strike

Sarah Sweeney


What knows the seconds after 
the earth sizzles? Cicada thrumming 

through electric air, trees 
dipping knobby thumbs
for drink, and the still-spinning tire 
of the blue-biked boy struck  
on the pavement.
I knew his sister then; 
how she tugged his body 
after the storm, amazed 
he was there, but was nowhere— 
eyes evaporated like steam. 
Then, neighbors knew everything,
mothers spread gossip on summer lawns 
in sleeveless gowns, 
while fathers pretended 
not to listen, winsome faces turned  
in the whiskeyed light, prodding  
at some branch. After learning
we might die anytime,  
anywhere, as random
as lightning,  
we pedaled past
the boy's house, its shuttered

gray windows, and whispered 
his name: Brian, Brian,
as though culling him
from behind the honey locust,   

where he was only hiding,
dirt-footed and breathless,   

running from a game
of outlaw children

hunting the block.
He never appeared,   

a little apparition
in dwindling summer,   

but we waited anyway
in the spot he was zapped,   

our ears tuned
for thunder, checking  

for clouds, a bolt
from Jesus’ finger,  

chanting if you’re here
give us a sign.