you are in the diode archives spring 2010




I slept through the whole damn thing,
twelve years old: sirens and screaming.

It’s never enough just to tell the story:

you have to have seen the flames, the blackened couch
shining, mirrored like onyx.

As a boy, smoke meant leaves burning,
Dad had come to gather us for the weekend.

I’ve told myself: in case of fire, any god will do.


Tornado Warning

           All the dirt and dust I’ve wiped from the TV over the years,
the cans of Lysol emptied in the bathrooms
                                                                (our bedroom on certain nights),
and all I can think of is how many times I’ve left this body
for some other body that, despite my best wishes, had irreversible constraints.

           I spent hours of my childhood standing in doorways
waiting to hear a freight train lift my house
                                                               from the ground,
rattle the windows rubbery and insubstantial.

                                I couldn’t stop myself from pressing
the backs of my hands hard against the door frame,

           pinning my wrists, enjoying the resistance,
and when the sirens stopped, when the air smelled
                                                                          like dry dirt again,
I’d step away and relax my arms, feel them
                                                          raise from my sides to parallel
the floor, drifting upward as though filled with sky.  


Gary L. McDowell’s first book, American Amen, won the 2009 Orphic Prize for Poetry and is forthcoming from Dream Horse Press.  He is also the author of two chapbooks, including They Speak of Fruit (Cooper Dillon, 2009), and co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press, 2010).  His new poems are forthcoming in journals such as The Bellingham Review, H_NGM_N, Indiana Review, The Laurel Review, Parthenon West Review, and Quarterly West.