Lenora Castillo

Tornado

From Tide-water baptism. Digital Repository @ Iowa State University, 1998

When we first see the blue line
along the horizon, we think it’s smoke
rising from a fire or maybe it’s blue rain
falling from the dark clouds.

We know, from the heat and humidity
of the day,  that it could be a wisp of mad air,
a column of air rising, tearing bits of cloud
as it spins. We know that it might grow long
and twisted like rope that drops to the ground
then whips back and forth as if by some unseen hand.

“Tornado,” Dad says, and we watch it disappear
back into the clouds as the storm moves forward
across the flat land.

We scan the horizon, see the tornado
drop, rise, then drop back to the ground,
closer now, the swirling wind picking up dust
and dark soil scoured from the newly planted fields.

Dad stands in the middle of the yard reading the clouds,
testing the wind, and the forward movement of the storm.
With no place to hide, we pile into the Ford
thinking we’ll be safe, if we drive south of its path.

In the middle of the tree-lined drive,
the explosion of an electric pole stops us,
splinters and sparks rain down on our car
that rocks softly back and forth in the wind.

The oak trees bend forward in deep respect,
allowing us to see the flashes of lightning
reflected off the sides of the silver grain silo
just before it’s sent flying over the fields like a kite.
We see the cattle circling the pens, open-mouthed,
bellowing; but we hear nothing but the roar.

Castillo, Lenora. “Tide-water baptism” (1998). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. Paper 7096. Iowa State University; Ames, Iowa.