Poem Excerpts

      Waiting for the Hurricane

      Daddy says we have plenty of time
      to get back to our car where he left my sisters,
      and make it safely home. Don’t you want
      to see a hurricane? He brags of tornadoes
      he chased in his pickup on the farm,
      of playing chicken with thunderheads in the war,
      zigzagging his plane over an ocean angry
      as the one we face alone on this empty beach…



      Her Irish aunts tiptoe the house, stopping clocks,
      draping glass, murmuring through her keyhole,
      Cover your vanity, souls get lost in mirrors.

      Cloistered in her room since they brought Father home,
      she ignores plump-knuckled rapping on her locked door,
      hushed pleas to eat food cooked by neighbors.

      She refuses to alter her routine, lays out school uniform
      and saddle shoes her father polished. She pirouettes
      the dancer on the music box he gave her…


      The Chicken Dinner Candy Bar

      Our aunt’s new boyfriend motored
      among the flat, reticent towns of central Indiana
      in a ’58 Ford tricked out to look like a chicken.
      Fashioned from sheet metal and fiberglass,
      the giant hen roosted on the pick-up’s bed…


      Our Secret

      Daddy picks just me to be a Blackfoot, like him,
      saying he’ll initiate me the way Indians did.
      I follow him to the ravine, so deep it swallows trees:
      only their green crowns show above our lawn.

      Underbrush scratches my legs as I scramble,
      stumbling on vines, alert for his shirt
      flashing white, his boots snapping dry branches,
      as we descend…



      She wakes to light harsh as an interrogator’s,
      and continuous shrieking, as if

      some primordial bird roosted on the roof.
      A flashlight sweeps her mattress, stops

      on the vacant half—Are you alone? She drags
      the bedspread up, trying to comprehend three men

      dressed in yellow and black like giant hornets.
      Your front door’s open, they inform her…


      All works © Janis Harrington