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BOOKS & THE CULTURE In line at checkout, Last Night A tornado touched down in upstate New York, an incongruity so odd we search for an explanation; global warming, El Nifio, the finger of God reaching down as if from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Yet I know this is not art, holding a lantern over the ledge of this second story apartment, the balcony crumpled into a yard of trees snapped like chicken bones, power lines lulling like vines. Below, friends drag off tree trunks for a bonfire. A neighbor, oddly pleased, wields a chainsaw he has been saving. Roommates pose for pictures by what’s left of a car. And as a dump truck grinds into reverse and bleats into the drive, I hold my lantern out, like a match at the cellar door, its light a small offering, to the strangeness that has gone, the strangeness left behind. placing two cans of soup onto the belt, it comes over me at once, the memory of a summer night, years ago, where I am alone, shooting baskets against the last cusp of light, and he is walking home before me, a neighbor whom I had known and not said a word to in years, a boy roughly my age, coming straight from a game, his metal cleats sparking on asphalt, the infield shale like chalk dust against his skin as I arc shot after shot in the drive, the ball clanging off the backboard and rim, and I don’t look up, don’t say a word, as he moves slowly down the street and enters his house, takes the rope he has lashed to an attic beam, and cinches the noose snug on his throat while outside the light continues to fade, and the only sound is the ball heaving over and over, rattling the backboard, tracing the rim, as it holds a moment, then falls. Jonathan Fink j onathan Fink graduated in 1997 with a B.A. in English from Trinity University in San Antonio, and recently completed an M.F.A. in poetry at Syracuse University. His poems have appeared in New Texas 98 and Salt Hill Journal, and his awards in dude the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers Award for Poetry, and second prize for poetry in Atlantic Monthly’s Students. Writing Contest. He was the featured poet in Analecta 25 from U.T.-Austin. Naomi Shihab Nye 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 7, 2000