The Tornado Siren

Clayton Adam Clark

BPR 39 | 2012

It blares and hums and blares, two dogs howl,
and birds crowd on a branch. From my deck, I watch
a plastic bag, snagged on the limb last month,
convulsing in the wind, and when it slackens,
I smell the cardboard box, weighted with sand,
I glutted with last winter's cigarettes.

I could think of Yeats or Milton, search
the sky for gyres and Jesus, but it's Monday,
the first this month. It's hard to know if seething,
green clouds deserve my panic — or if it's all
a drill. If I heave the box into the dumpster,
will I suddenly be prepared for spring?

I'll let the tattered plastic fly through summer,
a winter's flag, as children battle choices
beside the ice cream truck. One child might trickle
a handful of coins, and maybe the last dime
clings to her palm before she makes it go.
I want to tell this girl in blue galoshes

to save her father's change. The rains do come,
slowly at first, but then enough to scatter
to porches, the children hunching over treats.
The ice cream man bleats his ragtime and trolls
the street for one last patron, a kind of hope
that I admire in all the silence after.