Named Storm

Elizabeth Onusko
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Each phase of my childhood was marked by 
the death of another child,
but my parents didn’t worry much,
and I spent summer afternoons 
nowhere to be found. 
It was the most useful thing I’d taught myself, 
to move through life unnoticed. 
I could put authority figures at ease,
make myself small enough 
on busses and planes, 
disappear into crowds 
when a man trailed me down the street 
or around the mall. 
Once my family, returning from vacation, 
drove for hours through the eye 
of a category-two hurricane,
and its otherworldly calm 
lured me into relaxing
though the strongest part of the storm circled us. 
I remember its name: Bob. 
Generic and unthreatening.
It caused more than a billion dollars in damage.
The following month, 
a woman sat alone at a table
facing the Senate Judiciary Committee 
and spoke into a microphone
about the way her boss had treated her.
I learned what it was called
so when, years later, an interviewer 
groped my thigh, and a coworker 
slapped my butt, and a manager 
assigned me a new project
while staring at my breasts, 
at least I had a name 
for what they did to me,
and I thank her for that, for her voice, 
which, the moment I heard, 
I trusted.

This poem is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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