1,205 Readings | 4 Ratings

1999

                    for Joplin

The summer after the tornado
my family lived
in the Residence Inn, and we had to get away.

We drove north to Amish country,
vacationed in a strip mall.
Back then, being perky was like wishing on hay

ricks instead of bales, and so we devoured Fry Pies
glazed without shame: blushing
peach, Dutch cherry, strawberry rhubarb. That year,

the schedule read for Teenage Farm Camp:
feed goats, turn garden, slaughter
chicken for camping meal
. It was the summer my pulse

scattered if the wind picked up, and whenever
the sky clicked
gray—the Bradford pears bombed

to rice confetti, garbage churned
into trees, the houses became dollhouses, the people
became dolls—when it rained, my sister cried, There is

a chicken alive tonight that will be dead tomorrow
,
and I didn’t care. I chose
then to believe: we will only take the mean ones,

the bullies with glum yolks, their dirty
feathers a no-color between white
and brown. And there are times when we have to

pare down, when we wolf down fruit
packed in hog lard, when we call
our dogs back to us and hope they will come.

It’s how a home blows up
into an open mouth.
It’s how a heart is slit—then seals—at its throat.

Posted 06/07/11
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