terrifying in its beauty—details obscured—
the thick odor of rain lifts its fat and full
face. Tornado’s coming my father says
this afternoon. The fire department about a mile
away sounds its haunting groan at the all-volunteer
depot. Who pressed the button, who is there
to get the weather report? I’m eleven, my dress
whipping with the wind, finally wedged in the V
at the top of my legs. We should be inside the house
with my mother and sister, panic and intense fear
driving them to the small hall outside my basement
bedroom. It’s the only almost-safe place inside our
split-level rental. Windows are everywhere, in
every room, facing all directions. My father sniffs
the air. Even the dog has gone indoors. There
aren’t any other men out on the street, surveying
the clouds as they gather around my ankles. I want
to save him, to urge him to the basement, to shelter.
He has nothing to say to me. I stand on the dirty
driveway. It’s June and storms rise quickly
here in the suburbs. A ghost figure passes by,
leaving me alone as hail begins its hot peppering
against the softness of my body. Why doesn’t
he want me, why doesn’t he save me? The wailing
siren continues. Take cover, take cover I’m thinking.
I don’t want to leave my father alone. Wind rises
even higher, to my waist and the deluge begins.
Soaked, bedraggled, I walk slowly to the house
counting lightning strikes as I go. I’m almost always
alone, unless my father is with me, holding me,
reaching for my mouth. But he has left without me.
Downstairs he’ll find my mother is drunk and my little
sister is crying. I love the gray smoke coloring my skin
but I’m afraid now. I lift one foot, then the other. Through
the mist, I see my father’s hand grabbing for me.
What the hell are you doing outside he shouts. I want
to say to be alone with you, our adventure. But
he pulls me out of the sky’s falling envelope, pushes me
down the stairs. And we wait, the four of us, like an ordinary
family with a big dog. The siren’s still on high alert,
winds shift, o, the moaning through glass, watching bits
of lilac bushes skim by. Everything sounds very far away.