“Calm Before the Storm” by Joanna Grant

The Gulf is calm tonight. The ships
ride at anchor, from the wooden dhows
to the grey troop ships, all under their
home countries’ flags. At peace.

For now. When the wind turns
here in the Middle East as we
all feel it will from the salt tang
in the stiffening breeze—

then, well. The storm. We get them
even here in this tiny country of date palms
and sun where mostly one quiet day

goes down to day. We wear our masks,
that fight is over, now, even the mutinous
obeying the order in the end, reporting to
the base clinic doors at their mandated times.

Here. There. Wherever we might call home.
A pause. Under the awning shading the
main courtyard, a loosening. Unwinding.
The smokers smoke, the drinkers drink.
We greet each other. Relief. The young ones
flit from bench to bench, their flirts striking
sparks in the quickening breeze. Relief.

Until the next great swell, the booms and cracks
of the inevitable lightning, when the sea turns,
as we all know it will, even now the twinkling
of moonlight on the pretty wavelets barely masking
the rip, the rend of the many unquiet currents.

Joanna Grant holds a Ph.D. in British and American literature, specializing in fictional as well as nonfiction travel narratives of the Middle East. She spent eight years in that region, notably two years in Afghanistan, teaching writing, mythology, and public speaking classes to American soldiers and gathering materials for her own memoir, which she is currently completing as part of an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Southern New Hampshire University under the direction of Mark Sundeen. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely in journals including Guernica and Prairie Schooner.

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