Joplin taught me about tornadoes.

I learned the importance of thick
leather belts and how they may be
wrapped around trees to hold a
person earthbound
from the mouths
of  family.
They told me how onemight cling to
splintering barkas legs are wept under
and feet yanked skyward.

I heard stories of an
angry god who tugs at mortals
with a powerful grip
to scatter them carelessly.
I was shown the smooth trunks
of trees raped of their bark
by uncommon winds.

I can’t teach what I have never witnessed.
I can not speak of what it is like to
survive a tornado.

I can teach the desert.

I know the heat.
The deadly stroke of sun.
I know thirst and blistered skin,
not the mildew of a town sulking in rain.
I know the cancer of the bright,
not the threat of the dark.

When they hand me nails and boards,
and say with the ease of recitation
it is time to rebuild,

do not be startled
when I take to the road,
meager belongings
strapped to back,
confident I will not
be swept from

my path.

My demise will
creep upon me
like spots on skin.
It will not be storm
and wind

and sirens.
It will be slow,
it will

be painful