I have always told my friends about days
growing up in western Kansas,
the landscape a flat tabletop
with only candlestick trees,
and barn and silo--
a loaf of bread,
a glass of fresh milk.
And how storms would approach on the far horizon
(not a land for surprises, after all),
tornadoes dangerously beautiful tentacles
a kind of blue so deep almost silver,
spiraling in a marriage of ground and earth
that I could watch, and did, from safe distances.
No need to flee. Or so I felt back then
young boy and young man
growing up in a place like the plains,
where one had time and space,
and so much of it,
in fields of wheat and stubble and freshly turned soil
and legs young enough and strong enough
to run if need be.
Yesterday was a day for raking leaves.
All bagged along street curbs or banked in
heaping piles of warm colors of autumn,
like a knitted scarf of dark red, and amber,
and some orange and golden yellow to keep off the cold.
But not today.
Today the weather changed its mind
with the memory of spring
and its forgetful fickleness of an old lover.
Warm air meeting cool. And storm clouds brewed above us.
A midday sky dark,
the wind with sideways rain
that looked as if trying to breathe somehow
in an airless void of twisted, turning cloud
and dust in sky.
When the tornado sirens went off today
I crouched in the bathroom of my apartment,
old knees stiff with sitting too long
on a lazy Sunday afternoon
to read a book
or to watch a movie
or perhaps the football game.
I knelt there and listened to
the sound of nature
giving way to greater nature.
And I wondered if this was it.
And I thought, however briefly,
it was okay, though I would miss
more than be missed, I know.
That's just the way it is.
I have nowhere to run these days.
The old joke, "You're not in Kansas anymore"
too true this time.
Enclosed now in the close space of a life
limited by decisions and revisions,
walled in by necessities.
I could only imagine it now,
what was happening on the other side.
Not simply coming down from above, not entirely,
but rising from below, on the ground,
and meeting halfway,
both parts, ground and sky,
in a handshake of air,
agreeing to disagree
and show no mercy.
When the sirens stopped
we came out of hiding, all of us
in this apartment life.
We emerged and resumed.
I heard the man above yell out his open window
to a neighbor already about the business
of looking for storm signs
to tweet to friends.
Downed limbs from already leafless trees.
Everyone's homes powerless.
"Just in time for kickoff, too!" I heard. "Of course!"
I made a cup of tea then
by striking a match to my stove's gas burner,
and I watched the leaves raked yesterday
disappear in the steel-gray sky.
And I thought of how things go on.
And I marveled at how order
in the form of electricity
would be restored.
Not in time for football, no, but maybe for our evening shows,
comfortable lives on a Sunday night
before the work of the week
intrudes with its realities.
A life enclosed.
Our facebook friends awaiting word
that says we are here and we're
That says the world is safe
and to be trusted again.
That says we might, for dinner
tonight, order a pizza and drink
some beer as if to celebrate
such a day as this.
And besides, The Walking Dead
is on. And then there's always work
Apartment life, with all its rent and its restricted views
and the memory of storm epiphany,
an emptiness revealed
within four walls
just hours ago,
now gone like leaves from the day before
when there was time and strength
to pull the world together
and all the innocence to believe
it would somehow
always stay that way.