72. Tornado Symptoms

As you step outdoors you’ll enter a hot barn

with a moist haystack inside.

The cardinals will dart like embers, pierce

pierce your nerves with their bent sabres.

You’ll be intimate with traffic for miles around.

But if you look up where the twigs

all stiffly point, you’ll see silent

pandemonium, ugly rumors,

vagrant clouds loitering at loose ends.

It’s a schizophrenic air.

By supper the sky will be uprooted,

a garden hopelessly gone to seed.

Gray broccoli will float by disconnected

from the ground, fat sooty toadstools,

a species you’ve never seen before,

will sprout beside swollen fungi

and other gray growths, strange weeds trailing

their severed roots, flowers the color

of bad bruises just opening into blossom,

slowly moving areas of combustion.

Even cauliflower as it rolls past

will be misshapen

before the forest comes

— Jonathan Holden

One thought on “72. Tornado Symptoms

  1. This poem or maybe it’s just the title leaves me a little confused. Were the images described in the poem things I was supposed to be seeing prior to the Joplin tornado (or any tornado for that matter) or after the tornado? Or both? Of course, everyone experiences different things before, during, and after a tornado (the survivors, that is), so I guess I need to leave a little room for the unique experiences of the author, don’t I?

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