Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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After the Tornado, the Checkout Clerk Considers Leaving

Some states, she knows, are red in fall
and smell like wooded general stores.
Some states are gray all the time, so nothing
newly gray can interrupt their integrity.
Some states wave their flags of birds
and handshakes, some offer peaches on arrival,
some promise eleven feet of snow,
which is a danger you can avoid
by sitting still. Some states are up
where the action is, or at the country’s edge
where piers are lit with Ferris wheels
and people still rollerskate in short shorts.
Here, today, the sky is blue–dyed, but
the clerk saw the tornado, saw the world
splinter and lift away, as if all along
it had been made of nothing but toothpicks.
Her car is in the driveway, intact.
Her suitcase, her skull, intact. The country
is open and roads are short. She could
be in Arizona by tomorrow. There,
she could watch the sky stay the sky
day after day after day. But some states,
she knows, dry out your mouth before
breakfast. Some states are a tin drum ringing
over and over. Some states outlaw
certain dogs, some promise constant mist,
some grow ice as if it were a crop.
Across town, she knows, are holes,
wreckage, buried limbs. This
is a terrible place now. She watches
her cat continue the work of clawing
the red couch to shreds. The cat doesn’t
mind that the couch is an ugly thing;
but then, the cat made it that way.    

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