Friday, May 31, 2013

Renting Space in Tornado Alley

           — for those of us in the Midwest who know ...

When I turned 16, 
emancipation was my proclamation - 
I was in the process of becoming. 

I rented an apartment on the ground floor - 
no stairs were available then. 
It was small, dim, barely room enough to move
without bumping elbows, crashing knees.

I bought inexpensive lamps and covered
their shades with colored scarves to filter the light, 
hung bright tapestries and bold posters, strung fishnets 
with intricate patterns etched onto thick stucco
as though a tide would pass through those tepid walls,
providing translucent shells and perhaps, supper.

My stereo and books were my only companions for a time
as I settled in, sinking roots and plumping pillows,
cushioning this new solitude with hopes for abundance and flavor.

Reminders to eat my fruits and vegetables 
were pasted on an avocado refrigerator door, 
even though it echoed with definitions of hollow.

My only window faced an open field, 
just this side of an interstate, where cars would surge
both north and south, unsure of their destinations.

I watched with keen eyes as birds hopped 
nearby, weaving their songs, wondering 
where instinct would lead them next.

A spider spent its entire day building its web 
in the open metal frame. Later, as dark clouds loomed,
it reached out with spindly legs, gathering its silk, 
folding it in as if it was playing an accordion. 

What had taken hours to construct 
required only a moment to pack 
as it fled for safety somewhere,
anywhere away from here.

When tornadoes roamed wild paths, 
greening and graying the skies,
I'd bang on my elderly neighbor's door 
to warn her, then run and cling to a single mattress,
burrowed inside my closet, flashlight
and crackers in hand, as though to ward off hunger - 

whose, I wasn't quite sure, 
but it seemed to engulf the terrible waiting.