Udall, Kansas by Myrne Roe

                                May 25, 1955

The man uneasy left their bed.

His wife sleeping on her back

hands crossed at her neck clutching

a linen sheet as if it might escape.

Air hot and cold weighed heavy

on his chest, stole his breath.

At ten thirty he checked t.v. and radio,

got static for his efforts.

A calico paced up and down stairs,

mewling as if calling lost kittens.

The man and cat were students of storms,

big and not, sent each spring to Kansas.

He couldn’t see out the kitchen door

unless lightening zigged and zagged,

threw bolts that made shadows

of the grain elevator and water tower.

A train whistle blew and blew.

The man feared the engineer

meant a warning because he saw evil drop,

churn earth into debris as it charged toward town.

The news at ten issued all clear

so he had assumed only a thunderstorm.

Now he thought he’d better call his wife,

secure them both beneath the kitchen table.

By then it was ten thirty-five

and the most powerful Kansas tornado ever,

bore down on Udall with whirling, roaring

homicidal winds bent on fostering hell.

Dawn covered the awful result with pale light.

Silence wandered like a ghost

amid uprooted trees planted a hundred years ago,

houses without roofs and doors,

a telephone pole piercing the side of a church,

broken glass filling a bathtub.

Rescuers found death and affliction

in rooms without walls, flattened cars,

fields stripped of crops. flooded spaces.

The calico cat hid under a rain-soaked sofa.

No one found the man or his wife,

their house cleaved into splinters.

Reporters and cameramen hastened into the town

to find their story. Amid the ruins

one of them wrote,  “The little town of Udall

died in its sleep last night.”

Myrne Roe write, “I am a retired editorial writer and syndicated columnist who has been writing poetry for fifteen years. My poems have been published in local and regional publications including ByLine Magazine, Voices of the Heartland, Words Out of the Flatlands and Kansas Voices. I have also published a chapbook, Ironing Out the Wrinkles.” myrne@cox.net

Guest Editor Diane Wahto has an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University. Her poem, “Someone Is Always Watching,” won the American Academy of Poets award. Recently, her poems “The Conspiracy of Coffee” and “After the Storm” were published in Active Aging. She, her husband, and two dogs live in Wichita, Kansas. dwahto@cox.net

One thought on “Udall, Kansas by Myrne Roe

  1. This poem is a powerful on a second or third reading as it was the first time I read it. It has even more impact for me after my year of teaching in that tiny town. Thanks for writing it. I’m pleased I’m the one who got to use it.

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