When the sky threw down hail, I knew
our world was sudden, changing. In the violence of rains
we ran, I held my daughter with her water-soaked braids.
She covered her ears and counted
one Mississippi, two Mississippi
the space between lightning and thunder.
We heard sirens. Birds fled the sky. Soon
the wick of the world smelled matchstick blue.
three Mississippi, four
When the winds had blown off all the doors
we were soldered only by a handhold.
I’m not a believer
but I took shelter inside a prayer
when I saw a white horse
fly across the sky.
one Mississippi, two
I tried to tether you
to me. Through sweeping winds
of glass and debris
I struggled to see.
I watched my daughter fly away
from the grapnel of my arms. Unmoored
like a skiff, she sailed alone out the window.
I awoke into the fingertips of rain
light against my face. Wreckage
of a new world greeted me—
a baby blue bicycle lodged in an oak tree,
bright spoke beads in the shape of stars
on a wheel still spinning.
Listen to Ansel Elkins read “Tornado”
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