Twister Takes Up Teen; Lives
Thou lovley april fare thee
Thou early child
born where storms too often dwell
Thy parents news to bring
-John Clare, “April”
The Shepherd’s Calendar
Just after nine and the boy already dead
asleep. Exhausted from a turkey shoot at dawn,
he falls into sleep mute and deep as roots in dirt.
Out back, his
parents clean up the barbecue,
first warm night since the time change, see off
the neighbors down the way, their
to darkness hunched on the horizon. Inside,
quiet. The last dim light becoming strange,
we heard a kind of roaring, like
the air conditioner come on, and all
of a sudden-like, hail sharp
against the shutters, fingers of trees
clawing at the windows, then the door
just blowed off
its hinges, sails
into the front room like a sled down
the winter slope. They remember the boy,
through the darkness, pull
against the suck of pressure: all gone.
Walls, roof, bed – second story clean
as a cleared field. Instinct sends them
back down the stairs to a rattle and bang
at the back porch and Mercy!
stands, needing nineteen stitches
and a wet rag, but alright. I didn’t know
was up nor down, he will
later tell reporters. He can’t recall
being plucked from his bed, tumbled
like a rock over the creek bottom,
his arms, legs, wild vines searching
like the live pupil in a dark eye,
tossed out into a country strange as OZ:
cars balanced in the narrow forks
of trees; a single straw driven through
a plank of fence; a man’s tool shed intact,
while the barn attached splintered. The boy’s
frame, mattress found three-hundred fifty
yards away, unscarred. I don’t know how long
I was in there,
the newspaper will record.
I didn’t know what was going to happen
to me. It’s storm season,
son, April surge
of wind and bone. What did you expect?
-from The Highwayman's Wife
Evident death already at the equinox:
the jonquil heads
like the fists of old women,
tissue thin, withered, nodding in the sun;
tulip petals blown from their stems,
stamens bald, unashamed; the white poplars
blasted to tatters, littering the yard.
How this brown and crumpled
flare of spring persists,
even as we beat back emerald lawns each weekend,
and the wisteria claws its way
across the eaves.
The hardwoods rattle the ruffled sleeves on knotty arms,
and we scratch new wounds
in the earth,
blanket infant shoots with bone and dirt,
mound and cover against certain frost, pray
an impossible lullaby of water, light, forgiveness.
-from The Highwayman's Wife
Beasts of Burden -from The Farmer's Daughter
First, the horses, shaggy and silent steaming
the winter yard or idling in the sun.
Also the cats, under the steps, or into the tool shed,
all hiss and claw and
And the lesser beasts: mice, surprised by light;
starlings assembled in the yard; hogs, bunched
around the trough. And always the cattle.
Bellowing in the night fields outside my window,
standing at odd angles
in the barns and pens
as if stopped mid-beat in some ancient reel,
as if there were purpose to their posture,
as if I could hear their brute intelligence as it
echoes across the rafters, lofts over the granaries,
calls out to their mute and impotent god.