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Twister Takes Up Teen; Lives to Tell
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 backs turned
to darkness hunched on the horizon. Inside,
quiet. The last dim light becoming strange,
then, we heard a kind of roaring, like
the air conditioner come on, and all
of a sudden-like, hail sharp as buckshot
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,
and scramble 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! There he
stands, needing nineteen stitches
and a wet rag, but alright. I didn’t know
which way 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
own bed 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?
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
First, the horses, shaggy and silent steaming
in the winter yard or idling in the sun.
Also the cats, under the steps, or into the tool shed,
all hiss and claw and shining eyes.
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.
-from The Farmer's Daughter
BIO: Lynnell Edwards is the author of two collections of poetry, both from Red Hen Press: The Highwayman's Wife (2007) and The Farmer's Daughter (2003). Her work has appeared in Poets Against the War; Raising Our Voices: Oregon Poets Against the War; and numerous literary journals including: Poems & Plays, Southern Poetry Review, Poetry East, and Dos Passos Review. She is a regular reviewer for The Georgia Review, Pleiades, and Rain Taxi. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky where she is an Associate Professor of English at Spalding University. She received her doctorate in English at the University of Louisville and her undergraduate degree at Centre College in Kentucky. She is the recipient of a 2007 Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council.