Sunday, June 02, 2019

A Great Train

—Michael H. Brownstein

(Jefferson City, MO around midnight May 22, 2019)

When the great train exploded from the heavens
like huge bombs of gray napalm, the lights did not flicker,
they went out, everything deep in a cave black.
The rains came harder, the wind yelling, trees hysterical,
and then—nothing—no noise, no whisper, not even a sigh.
The trees realigned themselves, only a tickling rain,
a silence almost human—and my wife breaks the moment:
It’s here. Get to the basement. It’s here. It’s here.
I’m on the first floor, she’s on the second. No, I yell back,
I’m coming for you, but everything so dark, no real warning,
neither of us can find a safe place. (Didn’t the weatherman
a few hours earlier tell us the storms were all north of us?)
Everywhere the rancor of tornado sirens, loud and clear,
weaving their currents into the roar of the train racing too close.
I sat with the dogs, she in a stairwell away from glass,
and we waited until the wind of a familiar storm came back,
the rain louder, the train faraway. I went upstairs,
she’s safe, I’m safe, the dogs safe, a lack of sirens.
Maybe it was nothing, I tell her and for a long time
past midnight we sit on our bed holding hands.
At one AM the world erupted into flashing lights,
earnest sirens, and that is when we knew it was not.


—Medusa, with thanks to Michael Brownstein for his sharp portrait of this catastrophic event in Jefferson City, Missouri.

For more about the May 22 Jefferson City tornado, see