We had taken the long way home, a mile
Or two further than any of us had to walk,
But it meant being together longer, and home later.
The storm broke on us--broke is a cliché,
But us isn't--that storm was loosed for us, on us.
My cousin Blodwen, oldest and wisest of us,
Said in a voice we'd never heard her use before:
'The lightning kills you when it strikes the trees.'
If we were in anything besides a storm, it was trees.
On our left, the valley bottom was nothing but trees,
And on our right the trees went halfway up
The hill. We ran, between the trees and the trees,
Five children hand-in-hand, afraid of God,
Afraid of being among the lightning-fetching
Trees, soaked, soaked with rain, with sweat, with tears,
Frightened, if that's the adequate word, frightened
By the loud voice and the lambent threat,
Frightened certainly of whippings for being late,
Five children, ages six to eleven, stumbling
After a bit of running through trees from God.
Even my cousin who was eleven--I can't remember
If she was crying, too--I suppose I hope so.
But I do remember the younger ones when the stumbling
Got worse as the older terror of trees got worse
Adding their tears' irritation to the loud world of wet
And tall trees waiting to be struck by the flash, and us
With them--that running stumble, hand-in-hand--five
Children aware of our sins as we ran stumblingly:
Our sins which seemed such pointless things to talk
About to mild Miss Davies on the hard Sunday benches.
The lightning struck no trees, nor any of us.
I think we all got beaten; some of us got colds.
It was the longest race I ever ran,
A race against God's voice sounding from the hills
And his blaze aimed at the trees and at us,
A race in the unfriendly rain, with only the other
Children, hand-in-hand, to comfort me to know
They too were frightened, all of us miserable sinners.