Midwest Nursery Tales
In the stories, someone’s always
lost amid the cornstalks
or swept away in a flooding season.
Most nights, the children ask for the one
about the girl who refused to mind,
who followed a pair of cabbage moths
into a field of alfalfa ready for the reaping.
The girl trailed the papery wings
through a maze of grass, ignoring
her mother’s wind-pitched voice.
Out of earshot, a fox appeared,
chased her dizzy and nipped her heels
until they bled, until she fell, exhausted.
When the searchers arrived, all they found
were her shoes and a patch of blood-red
poppies. Each year those flowers bloomed
no matter how deeply they tilled the soil.
Most nights, the children dream
of teeth sharp as a combine blade,
of the search without rescue.
The Once-Winged Saint
After the wilding crowd had razed her wings, her body shriveled into death. For three days, the mirror proved no breath, yet the nubs at her shoulder blades bled— blood bright, hot, and red.
Her mother bound the wounds with white linen, the cloth the first relic.
In the aftermath, her sister crawled through the grass, plucking out the faint remains of feathers. Even then, the women understood that the village martyrs what appears as other and then repents.
A century later, the once-winged saint resides in a windless, marble shrine— still feels the ache, the pull of every relic long since scattered.
The Fledgling Saint
Cast out by rough winds and a roar
louder than his father’s voice,
the boy emerged unscarred—
though the frame house shattered
in the hands of a vengeful God.
Orphaned in the aftermath:
the father-body carried off
and buried in a field of debris,
the mother-body, already
a two year absence before the wind,
the boy collected her journals
and stacked them in a leather satchel,
carrying her heavy scrawl
from prairie town to cities on the river.
With one hand on her words, one fist
threatening God, and a voice
packed with his father’s rage,
he could collect the clouds and fling
the funnels far from any home.
Fairy Tale for Girls Enthralled by the Storm
Once there was a girl who loved the prairie wind,
would stand for hours on a slight rise in the land
and let the breeze play havoc with her hair.
It whispered secrets from the north and west,
and on gusty days sang songs of wanton lust.
Her father cursed the wind in coarse words
for stripping the soil and building deep drifts
of snow in winter, and while he cursed
he watched his girl and was unnerved
by the way she smiled like a woman.
Then came the summer of the string of storms,
each week another town struck down
by tornadoes that sprang up unannounced.
The radar watchers couldn’t believe how fast,
no time to sound the sirens as the air clashed
and clawed the people from their homes.
The girl was patient as she waited for the wind,
could feel the line of storms gathering.
One night she slipped from bed and walked
into the rain. She took her place on that slight rise,
called out, was ready to be lifted and transformed.
Sandy Longhorn is the author of Blood Almanac (Anhinga Press, 2006), which won the 2005 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, judged by Reginald Shepherd. New poems are forthcoming or have appeared recently in Anti-, The Dirty Napkin, Lake Effect, New Madrid, Redivider, Spillway, and elsewhere. Her work has also been featured on Verse Daily. Longhorn lives in Little Rock, AR, is an Arkansas Arts Council fellow, and blogs at Myself the only Kangaroo among the Beauty.
Sandy Longhorn at Anhinga Press
Sandy Longhorn’s blog