Crossing the Texan plain in September,
in the back of a Ford with my sister and folks,
windows wide open to catch the hot breezes
that whistle like freight trains from the horizon,
I hear our mother whisper to father,
“Soon, all this will be underwater.”
My sister and I are astonished to silence:
the sun-bleached sky gives no sign of moisture.
Will Noah’s flood now reach into Texas,
the day of retribution at last (thank you Jesus),
and our parents again keeping it from us?
A dragonfly shimmers, or is it a minnow?
That buzzard, who floats without any tether,
might be a seagull, searching for trash.
Those cattle—they’ll drown, their brown eyes like bubbles,
panicked and rolling around and around.
These scrawny trees will be waving like seaweed
and the tumbleweeds turn into prickly blowfish.
Now, everything opens to change:
deserts can be oceans and rivers run dry,
valleys slice through the unsteady earth.
We whisper together in the back seat,
urging the old Ford to flee toward home:
Lord, none but you can save us.
Your yellow eye watches.
We sweat as we pray,
please, please, don’t send the rains.
As he soared toward the open nest,
(wrapping her in his light white wings
as if she were his only child),
while he dived to the target’s eye,
she saw the wild earth revealed:
distant, distinct, real.
They flew above forests
heaving with rain,
and she watched the flamingos dance
their naked pink seduction.
She saw the deserts,
scraped clean to the bone.
From her swaying, balanced cradle
she saw the acorn blossom into oak,
she knew what the white bull did,
what the shower of gold bought.
And she heard the swan’s sole song,
not yet sung.
It sounded like temples falling,
like all women sighing together.
Up and over the world they rose
until it was a ball she’d tossed high once
from her father’s garden into the air.
Blue, green, it whirled, and disappeared.
What Came from This
You, who blocks my way--
the bump in the road,
snarl in my hair,
the stutter, limp, stone in my shoe.
The stumble, the hobble, the turnstile--
the crumbs in the sheet,
grit in my eye,
lump in my throat,
my club foot.
You, who impedes me--
the holding edge,
the hem, the belt,
the safety strap.
Sunshade, net, sieve.
My trigger lock.
The filter, reins,
the parachute creating drag--
slowing my fall.
You, who catches me--
the hand on my heart--
the full stop--
Auntie Em's Lament
They say, after you’ve seen a twister
you’re not the same. It mixed her
up, all right. Sometimes I miss her,
the girl she was, daughter of my sister.
Now the hens are scattered, my hands a-blistered,
fences down, but she just clicks her
heels together once, twice, and then quicker,
watching the clouds as if they’ll lift her.
If only she had come with us into the shelter.
Where did she go? What does she wish for?
She’s planting poppies out in the pasture!
Says that the scarecrow speaks in a whisper
But if I go into the fields with her,
he’s dumb as a post. Oh, I could list her
faults all day. I’m always chasing after
her to milk the cow, to sweep up faster.
She stares at the broom. When I ask her,
What’s wrong? Dorothy, what is the matter?
she says I didn’t mean to come back here.
Lord help me, sometimes I want to smack her.
How many times do I have to tell her
there are no flying monkeys and if there were,
not in Kansas, that’s for sure.
She has a figure now, makes her look older.
The hired hands watch her, growing bolder,
drawling that they’re feeling hotter.
I snap Act like she’s your own daughter!
But all I get are smirks and laughter.
I tell her Sit. Shell peas. No chatter.
She takes the swing, I take the rocker
Then she starts talking and I can’t stop her
from telling a tall tale about that twister:
she had red shoes. She talked to witches.
In an emerald city, she met with a wizard.
I say, Dorothy, you’re just plain wicked
To tell such lies. Her face gets twisted
And now she’s chanting, she says it like a poem,
There’s no place like it, no place like home.
That night, as I flew to you,
I hovered at the window, peering down
over the dark land.
The moon was full,
it gleamed on each watery surface below:
ponds, river, lakes lit silver
and when we passed, dimmed to black.
Like the magical hands in the fairy tale,
lighting her way down the corridor,
telling Beauty: there is no turning back;
like a necklace of fireflies
slowly winking on, then off,
each signaling the next to glow;
like a beacon pulsing its steady welcome
or the signalmen on the ground,
guiding the big bird home,
each light shone:
this way, this way to love.