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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Danger Days

Air Date: Week of

Catherine Pierce’s poem “Danger Days” references a trope of 1980s movies commonly known as “kids on bikes” that harkens to a childlike innocence and freedom that she feels has been lost. (Photo: Berkan Küçükgül, Unsplash)

Poet Laureate of Mississippi Catherine Pierce describes these days of extreme heat and humidity that are changing summer vacation as the planet warms in her book Danger Days.


DOERING: By the way, there’s a name for those days of extreme heat and humidity that are changing summer vacation as the planet warms. Poet Laureate of Mississippi Catherine Pierce made it the focus of her latest work and its central poem.

PIERCE: The title of the book and the title of the poem is Danger Days, and that’s a weather term, and the definition of it is the epigraph of this poem. It’s when the combination of heat and humidity makes it feel like 105 degrees or hotter.

Danger Days

when the combination of heat and humidity makes it feel like 105°F or hotter

In the movies from the eighties, children
wore red pants and wild hair.
They were always circling cul-de-sacs
on banana-seat bikes, always wandering
after dark into woods full of hoots
and clicks. What haunted me more
than the ghoul-girls or gloved slashers

were the missing parents—not dead, usually,
just elsewhere. When the séance began
innocently, when the doll’s eyes popped open,
the grown-ups were never around.
They were off smoking pot,
they were date-nighting, affair-having.
They were office-stuck, their kids set
with house keys and frozen Salisbury steaks.
Sometimes they were home but sleeping,
snug and unghosted. Wherever they were,

they weren’t watching. We don’t live
on a cul-de-sac, so my kids ride their bikes
in a long, slow loop up our driveway
and back. I’d like to send them
rocketing down our tree-named streets—
Oakwood, Elmridge—but the main road
is Shadow Pines, and I’ve seen enough
movies to know what that means. I think

Catherine Pierce is Mississippi’s poet laureate, as well as the author of four books of poems including Danger Days and The Tornado Is the World. (Photo: Megan Bean / Mississippi State University)

of those gone grown-ups a lot now.
When the latest mass shooting alert pings.
When ire is gilded again into policy.
Tonight the weatherman says
Three danger days in the next week,
the heat a mouth closed around our state.
Outside, the humidity moans.
Trees grow talons. My husband and I
are up late again, watching the news
while our children sleep. We’re here
in our house off Shadow Pines, here
in the first part of a century bent
toward flaming out. Dear children

of the eighties, across the dark
country, phones and laptops and TVs
flicker. We’re watching now,
room after room after room.
Dear children of the eighties, can you
tell us now what was in the woods?
Can you tell us if watching
stopped anything from happening?

DOERING: That’s poet Catherine Pierce, whose latest book is called “Danger Days.”



Catherine Pierce’s poetry and more


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