Ours Was a Softer Kind of Landing by Beth Gordon

Tornado_Destroyed_House_in_Parkersburg,_Iowa

We believed this landscape would not betray,
cinematic sunsets haloing white
farmhouse and cornstalks, as tall as young
men, your cats running free across the road
and back without daylight danger, always
returning home before coyote hour,
high winds that cause old branches to grumble,
the haunted oak tree breaking your bedroom
window, its veined hands reaching for your throat
only to discover that you had fled
to the basement, your nerves frayed, uneasy
at the ribbons of rain that wrapped around
every stone or brick within your line
of sight. I tell you that the wilderness
reclaimed Ukrainian suburbia
after the Chernobyl meltdown, pregnant
foxes and winter wolves roam without fear,
that genetically modified soybean
exhibits natural immunities
to radioactive dirt, that thunder
heads and tornadoes have become common
topics of conversation, that I know
how to hide arsenic poisoning from
the forensic detectives in Osage,
MO but would be indicted in New
Orleans for the same crime. Beige homes destroy
our last corner of beauty and I am
leaving for the smoky mountains, this last
sanctuary now coated with poor-grade
cement, the once gentle road a gauntlet
for domesticated mammals, wild skunks,
afternoons of relaxation removed
with top soil. I tell you I am waiting
for the next disaster as I hold my
grandson’s blooming hand, guiding him around
an abandoned porch in a sweet circle
of splintered flight, that I no longer trust
meteorologists, pretty prophets
with ugly news, I scan the horizon
searching for God’s eyes, a voice louder than
schoolyard gunfire, a promise that this
caterpillar boy will wake tomorrow.

759px-Child's_Hands_Holding_White_Rose_for_Peace_Free_Creative_Commons_(1535619818)

 

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Into the Void, Noble/Gas, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.

 

First photograph by Vossman. Second photograph by Pink Sherbet Photography. 

How to Remain Invisible When the Great Storm Falls by Michael H. Brownstein

Tornado_Damage,_Illinois

–Jefferson City, MO, tornado, 11:40 PM, May 22nd/23rd, 2019

Two days later you navigate the ruts in the road,
fallen trees, torn roofs, swinging wires, broken poles
to a house at the end of a broken street and a gravel path,
up the steps of a porch still strong, an electric box dangling,
no windows broken, branches and car parts a picture frame.
When the door opens, heat rushes outside. A frail woman
at the door. Yes, she says. On her kitchen table,
a melting ice-cream carton, bags of leaking vegetables,
the soiled odor of spoiled milk. Come in, she says.
No electricity, a water pipe maligned, gas turned off.
All around you, every house has a sign—you can stay or
you must vacate. There is no sign on her front door.
You’re the first people I’ve seen in three days. Is it safe?
We have food, you tell her, and water. One of us
can remain with you. We’ll see if we cannot get you help.
And then the wind of the tornado slips from her.
her body rocks, then shivers, one hand goes to her face.
Sorry, she says. I can’t help it and she cries and cries.

 

 

Michael H. Brownstein is on the roof of his old house, the roof in serious disrepair, and he walks on it as if he’s on a boardwalk – a squirrel falls through where he just stood – what is left to do but go to all fours, tread carefully until he’s on safe ground, call the roofers (he can’t fix this), and write a poem.

He’s walking across a great field, firecrackers exploding. He swats away at dozens of mosquitoes. Near where he teaches, the security guard tackles him and points out a sniper who has been shooting at him as he crossed. There is nothing else to do but conduct a poetry workshop in his algebra class.

He goes camping, and a rattlesnake crawls into his sleeping bag. Prayer and poetry – they really do go together.

On and on. Take a break. Write a poem.

 

 

Photograph by Robert Lawson.