Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Siren / Torch Song

First Verse

If I could have cut through the red tape
(oh, yes, you will give me my child!)
a little faster,
we could have made it home
before the siren song.
Bad timing.
Instead, we joined the crush in the hallway,
backs against the wall,
old muscle memory
duck and cover.
A little girl I didn't know hid her face and cried.
I touched her arm and whispered,
"Don't worry.  It's not even close."

Second Verse

Death grinds north,
nebulous and rain wrapped.
Finally unpenned, we make a blazing fast break for it.
How many times did I tell my child we were safe
even as I stacked pillows in the hall?
How many times did I assure her that everything was fine
while the opaque sky called me out?
Did she believe me
or the helicopter holding a storm track hover overhead?

Verse Three

You don't realize that you've been holding your breath
until the siren cuts off
and you breathe again.
All clear . . .
and all silent,
but for a bleak, radio voice
factfeeding your visions
of duck and cover,
and empty slabs.

 As many of you know, my part of the world was hit by a tornado yesterday.  The above is true; I had to take shelter in the hallway of my daughter's school when I wasn't able to make it back home in time.  Four miles away, children at another elementary school did the same duck and cover, and it wasn't enough.  I don't usually do "disaster poetry," but the sheer randomness and unfairness of it all really affected me.  I apologize if this strikes anyone as insensitive.

The Sunday Whirl words for Open Link Night at dVerse

34 comments:

Brian Miller said...

dang...was wondering if you would even write mz....its hard to really even grasp what you went through...it is effective in your verse....ugh...those families of the kids...i struggle to really write much coherent in this comment other than i am glad you are ok...and joy too...

Audrey Howitt aka Divalounger said...

I am always struck by the randomness of death--your piece somehow reminds me of that--both my parents survived bombings in the 2nd world war--my mom in the Philippines and my dad in Europe--why do some of us make and others just a ways over don't--glad you all are ok--

Mary said...

MZ, I did think of you with this tornado and its mega damage. I am glad that you and family are safe. So awful it was. And you comforted the girl you didn't even know...that is very touching. Your poem is not insensitive at all. It needs to have been written. I feel so sad for the children in the other school who didn't make it. Tornadoes scare me big time. You made it so real, and (of course) it was.

Fireblossom said...

Nothing brings home the terror and uncertainty of a grim situation than to shrink it down to just a few people in a hallway. I am so glad that you and yours are all right.

Nico said...

Great writing--those of us living at a distance from this disaster cannot know what it is like there, but your words give voice to an experience that helps us feel and empathize. Thanks so much for this.

Helen said...

There will be countless descriptions of what happened in Oklahoma yesterday .... none more sobering or reflective than yours. Thank you.

Mama Zen said...

Guys, I don't want to give you the wrong impression. I'm about four miles from the damage, and I'm fine.

manicddaily said...

Four miles is not very far. It must have been terrifying. That terror is clear in your words - so sad. Agh, these poor kids. And the adults. Take care. Wonderful poems. k.

Poet Laundry said...

I'm glad you are safe! What a terrifying thing to go through nonetheless. Your words definitely brought the terror to us.

ayala said...

Powerful and heartbreaking. Thankful you are okay and praying for those that are not.

Laurie Kolp said...

Oh, no! I am so glad you and your daughter are okay... I'm praying for everyone involved!

Susan said...

Insensitive? This poem from ground zero is sensual and sensitive and amazing! Besides catching the event, it shows a life passing in front of the narrator's mind (and mine), a duck and cover and who can you believe poem. I remember how I could only rise above my fears--of dark, storms, howls, everything--if I was babysitting, protecting children, and so you too, holding your breath and fear and desire to run. Thank you for writing and doing it so soon, assuring us you and yours are well.

Buddah Moskowitz said...

How you had the ability at all to write is fantastic. You captured this dramatically, forcefully and there isn't an insensitive syllable in the whole thing. I watched yesterday in shock and awe. Didn't know that was you. Take care.

Maggie Grace said...

Not insensitive at all. You poured out your feelings and told the riveting story you lived through. Am very glad you are okay. So much damage. Did your home survive? Sending healing energy and prayers for you and your town.

Siggi in Downeast Maine said...

My opinion on insensitive is that anyone who would consider this insensitive is INSENSITIVE ... in all caps.
Thank you for sharing your horrendous experience. What a time it must have been for you and your daughter.
I can remember the drills from growing up in the mid-west and having such confidence from the first that we would be safe...and remember the "safe places" at home including as a young girl wondering about the corner in the basement on the side the tornado was coming from.
The sound of the sirens is so eery yet... and so much more real and meaningful to you.

Thank you for sharing, and I am happy you and your daughter are safe.
Am keeping you and your community in my thoughts and prayers as you deal with the aftermath.
Peace and love,
Siggi

flaubert said...

Glad to hear you are well, mama. I had no idea that you were so close to that monster. This is not insensitive, it is an eyeopener for those of us who have no idea of the terror.

Pamela

Ginny Brannan said...

Scary stuff, indeed. In 2011 we had a tornado pass just a few short miles south of us on it's 45 mile trek across our state (MA). Terrifying and almost surreal the destruction that happens in such a brief period of time. Glad you are safe and okay. Praying for those who have lost everything. *hugs*

brenda w said...

I love the phrasing "nebulous and rain wrapped." I'm glad you're safe. Thanks for sharing this...it's raw and present.

TALON said...

I don't think it was insensitive at all...there is the real danger here, the immediacy of dealing with an imminent disaster.

mindlovemisery said...

Oh wow this is intense, beautifully written, the kind of poem that just grabs the heart and squeezes. I wish your family the best.

Kelvin S.M. said...

..ah, difficult times that tore a part of me... when it all deals with the young ones i couldn't have but be not well... i hope fast recovery for the affected ones... and glad you & yours are doing & living fine... always keep safe... smiles...

Lorraine said...

No I think it's real and beautiful, it would be lovely if you could save everyone, but nobody can, yet you helped this little girl survive, and you can find yourself lucky that you and a little girl, and hopefully others too are safe when so many others might not. You can cry for them, you can pray, and you sure as hell can be darn grateful that you and this little girl you saved are still alive, I am grateful that you're still alive.

Lorraine said...

and I forgot to mention I'm relieved that your daughter made it through with you, 'cause at a time such as this a child or even a woman would want her mom with her....xxx

Nanka said...

Love the spontaneity of this poem!! A heart stopper!! All natural feelings pouring out with no constraints!! Glad you and your daughter were together, or it could have been traumatic for both!!

Carol Steel said...

I'm relieved to know that you and yours are safe. You captured the horror and fear and noise and random destruction so well.

M. J. Joachim said...

Words can't express my heart for those in OK. My thoughts and prayers go out to all.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I can't tell you how it affected me to learn of the children who were crushed in the hallway of their elementary school - to think of you in the same situation with your child... What an awful thing to have experienced, and now to make sense of it in the aftermath...

henna ink said...

Yikes, MZ. I'm so sorry. How terrifying to have your own body in danger, but then to know you're responsible for protecting your child against something you cannot control. Nothing is more frightening than that.

The ending is my favorite part:
"but for a bleak, radio voice
factfeeding your visions
of duck and cover,
and empty slabs"

After, of course, what you did with the title. What an excellent play on words, leading the reader in to what she thinks is a poem about mesmerizing ocean siren (song) but really, it's an entirely different sort of siren. Brilliant. You're such a clever writer, even in the midst of chaos and working with what must be a muddled, shaken brain.

Margaret said...

You don't realize that you've been holding your breath
until the siren cuts off

... I can only think that in an emergency like this, you couldn't have just gone straight TO the classroom. They KNEW who you were. I'd have been quite a momma bear, I am sure - some rules are just so hard to follow. Thank goodness you were spared, but TEN miles is far too close! I thought of you and Joy and worried. So very glad you are both safe.

Marian said...

OMG Kelli. four miles is not very fucking far. argh, xoxo

razzamadazzle said...

I'm so sorry. I can't imagine the horror of going through this. I am glad to hear you are safe. This really doesn't seem insensitive. It's healing. Sometimes this is the only way to process those deeply cutting feelings.

dragyonfly said...

Thank you for sharing...I am in awe of the phrases, "while the opaque sky called me out" and "death grinds north, nebulous and rain wrapped." Those are so graphic and terrifying descriptions of a tornado and the atmospheric changes we feel when close to one. There is no way to predict where they will go....you are so fortunate.

Mystic_Mom said...

Firstly - I am so glad you made it through okay. Secondly - this is what I needed to hear. A voice from inside the storm. Well done.

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