Bella Aase

Minneapolis // June 2, 2020
3:53 p.m.
The sky is darkened, textureless, a heavy blue.
I saw dark red on radar; lone band of downpour treading east. Inside I sit,
facing north, watching through a sliding glass door. Lamplight shadows
on apartment walls, stove fan whirring a constant exhale.
Dry and breathless are the street, lawn, tilted oak tree.

Untouched bird feeder hangs under wrought iron rail, tied by white ribbons
twitching in the humid breeze. The atmosphere itches to change, to move.
My nerves are awake to earth’s empathetic ache
as my city moans in pain. Does the breeze advance from atmospheric
pressure, or from the motion of marching steps through downtown? Which
is stronger: the sky’s instability, or the oppressed sweat of weary hands
holding signs up high, the thin-lined spray of BLM graffiti
on board and wall, the spittle of voice-cracked cries
rising from cloth-masked crowds?

4:10 p.m.
Lightning bolt flashes, my eyes snap to the window
just missing its line. A vague flash far enough to choke
thunder from trembling my ears. Electric light dims
and humming fan pauses, a half-noticeable
of the current that powers my home. I see the growing sway, wind
gusts bending skeletal branches but can’t feel anything on my own skin.
Am I too safe?
I watch the skies, the moving tension, and wish
the power had really gone, left me sitting alone in the dark,
quiet, faced with questions, pondering justice to a storm I’ve never known.

4:29 p.m.
Rain. Only for two minutes, then balcony dries in ten.
My bare feet step outside, and eventually so do I. Rain in this city
smells metallic, a rust-infused petrichor. Clouds roll above, texture
like broiling steam or curls of grayish smoke. Softer than Thursday
night’s plume rising from the 3rd Precinct and E Lake Street, lacking
the noxious aftertaste: iron, gasoline, warped wood—
ingredients that hit different when it’s my city that burns.

I lean on the rail, stagnant cool droplets wetting my pale palms. A tired
motor churns inside a rusty Nissan, propelled across Terrace Drive
far below. A Black man steps with a red cane, plastic Speedway bag
in hand, tilted gait over the road’s drying asphalt. I hate my third-floor
view—I can’t see his face. Does he have wrinkles? Gray stubble?
Scars? We are so far apart, so much I don’t understand.

White ribbons, still damp, float heavier on the cooled breeze.
I long to feel grounded. A distant rumble pushes through air, finally audible.
The man treks out of view and I stand still, breathing, new awareness
tattooed over the city’s white noise. My eyes ache, nausea—
I stand at a height I can no longer ignore.


About Bella Aase
Bella Aase was born and raised in Rochester, Minnesota, and lives in St. Paul with her husband John. She received her Bachelor’s in English Writing from University of Northwestern-St. Paul, graduating amid the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among her favorite things: cold Dr. Pepper, The Legend of Zelda franchise, film score composer Hans Zimmer, black cats, and rare weather phenomena. She writes to stay alive.


Stratiform Copyright © 2021 by Bella Aase. All Rights Reserved.

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