The Exaltation

By Ronald Okuaki Lieber

In dry season in equatorial Chad, the Sahel is so hot the soil
Chars to red dust, the grass to a blond bristle, heat bearing down like affliction

And because the land blisters and coastal Africa is forested, humid and cool, air Is
Sucked easterly, darkening the horizon with fury into which a man, tending

The village flock stares, a wave so sudden and massive the Dogon has little time
To corral the sheep before the air erupts with stinging needles. The storm

Sweeps across the continent until in the Atlantic thunderheads and wind
Marry the doldrums, and a hurricane is born. Its updraft plunges the ocean, and swells

Spiral westward across the open sea to loom large on 
Beaches lining the American Eastern seaboard as in Montauk Long Island where surfers

Scan the near horizon for the shadowed lines their kind read. It’s what they have prepared for 
The summer afternoons and cool September dawns before work, that one stirring

Pitched perfect just where a surfer waits, and he paddles to catch the lip, a chthonic uprise
Heaving him high to which he surrenders, riding the rollinglevel underneath

Into rapture that I as a ten-year-old in the thick of the Ozarks heard in the treetops
Swaying back and forth, a thousand miles away. The shepherd stokes the charcoal

Embers with dry twigs, the surfer packs his board, and the hurricane makes landfall
In Kill Devil Hills, splintering wooden homes. I am joined.

Ronald Okuaki Lieber is the son of a Japanese mother and Jewish American military man and lived in fourteen localities the first fourteen years of his life. Lieber served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica before settling in New York City, where he is a tenured professor at SUNY Nassau, and a licensed psychoanalyst in private practice.

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