I don’t claim to be a poet, but sometimes, the story must be told in a poem. I wrote one for a contest, and I’m sharing it with you. It’s based on the real-life event that happened to my great-grandparents. I hope you’ll enjoy my poem.
Mary and Rufus had moved to the Clyde valley.
Some told them not to go to Tornado Alley.
In nineteen and thirty-eight, they hoed in their field,
Hoping their peanut crop would give them a fine yield.
When they looked to the west where dark storm clouds arose,
They ran hard to the neighbors before the door closed.
In the cellar, she feared and shook like the door
Above her, the twister blew and let out a roar.
Soon silence leaked into the dark hole in the ground.
Is it over, she wondered as wild her heart pound.
The neighbor man climbed the stairs, then pushed back the door
Clouds swirled in the sky and eerie light hit the floor.
“Can you see anything?” her husband asked of him.
The man stood frozen but for his quivering chin.
Her blood flowed like ice through her thin body’s frame
As Rufus took her hand and did call her by name.
“Mary, don’t be afraid. Our home, other storms missed.
The roof can be repaired.” He reached to take her fist.
Up the stairs he led her and what came into view
Stole her breath, made her heart grow cold as her fears grew.
Before they descended into the underground,
Where once a town stood, destruction lay all around.
Wiped clean like a broom over a floor made of wood,
Swept away by the wind, so no houses there stood.
The peanut field they hoed as the storm had drawn nigh
Was stripped clean of its crop and strewn across the sky.
Mary’s throat tightened, and wouldn’t let air inside,
She clutched at her chest, and her voice let out a cry.
“My home! My chickens! My quilts! My clothes and my house!
I must get to them fast.” She let go of her blouse.
Her feet fairly flew across the brown barren ground.
Rufus flew past her, much like a racing grayhound.
Ahead of her, he stopped, stood looking at nothing.
Mary came up beside him, huffing and puffing.
On the spot where earlier their small house stood,
Little remained there now, not a pan, brick, or wood.
Everything they had worked for, and all they had owned
Had been taken away when the fierce wind had blown.
Together they stood, speechless, too numb to react.
When the full weight hit her, Mary started to crack.
“It’s all gone! It’s all gone! My quilts, chickens, and cows.
We have nothing left, no home, no place to live now.”
Mary fell to her knees, and cried to the dark sky,
“You blew it all away! You didn’t have to. Why?”
From a far cloud, came lightning and thunder
Her heart stood still, the response brought fear and wonder
The clouds to the west parted, a cool breeze blew by.
Sunshine and shadows and blue came back to the sky.
The answer came to her, though no words were spoken:
She and Rufus still lived, their bodies unbroken.
From the side of her view, something flashed in the light.
When she saw what it was, she knew she was all right.
In the bare dirt, anchored there by a wooden post
A spoon, slightly bent, lay like a scared silver ghost
Just last night, it had served them cooked beans from the stove
Seeing it now was like finding a treasure trove.
Rufus helped her to her feet, happy for her find,
“Let’s see if we can find others, if you’re inclined.”
So they searched all around, and found a silver knife,
But little else remained from their yesterday life.
Their search was nearly done when shining in a tree,
A fork, plunged deep in the wood, a piece of debris.
With a twist and a wiggle, a groan and a tug,
The fork became free and was embraced by a hug.
Three pieces of silverware were all that remained
Of all their possessions their little house contained.
Mary mourned her loss. She didn’t know what to do,
But neighbors were coming now, they’d help them get through.
Rufus shed not a tear, but he let Mary cry
As he held her close, he raised his voice to the sky,
“We started with nothing, we’ll do it once more.
We’ve talked about opening a small country store.
Since the storm took away all our previous plans,
We’ll buckle down and try harder, do what we can.”
The next day dawned, and the next and the next and the next
Life went on with grit and work. Their muscles were flexed.
They dug a storm cellar before starting a house.
Rufus wanted a safe place to comfort his spouse.
After that, Rufus looked, nails and boards he did hunt,
And they built a new home with a store on the front
But whenever any storm cloud darkened the sky
Mary ran to the cellar until it blew by.
Rufus stood strong with his wife Mary by his side.
©Carol Kjar Tornado Alley 2020