Sunday, February 14, 2010

Duck and Cover

As a young girl
living in Oklahoma
OOO—klahoma, where the wind
comes sweeping down the plain,
there were two things I learned well—
duck and cover.

When the alarm would sound
echoing down the halls
we would scurry
single-file, down the stairs
of the gray brick building
and under the symbol,
three equilateral triangles
inside a circle, over the words
into the safety of the gray basement,
lines of children against gray walls:
side by side
on our knees
arms crossed
over our elementary heads,
ducking and covering,
waiting for a hollow voice
to echo down the stairs
telling us we were safe
once more.

In our youth we didn’t understand
that, in the case of a tornado,
our practice could save our lives,
but that symbol over the door,
those three equilateral triangles,
symbols of perfection,
could never protect us
from the searching claws
the fiery, fearsome, vicious claws
of the atomic bomb.

This was the Cold War,
and this was our practice in
a need to be in
when control existed in the finger
pushing the button,
miles and worlds away.

Many tornadoes touched down
in those years—
but never The Bomb.
I guess it was still good practice,
all the duck and cover.

Times in life the alarm has sounded
and I’ve searched frantically
for that triad symbol
ignoring the thought
the tickling, taunting, tearing thought
that the symbol is nothing
but wishful thinking.
That the best I can hope for this time—

This time
let it be a tornado;
I can duck and cover.
Let it pass over me
throwing its tantrums,
a poltergeist of dirt,
a tiger coiling in shadow,
but unable to reach me
in my deep place, fetal position, knees up, head covered.

So far, this far, it’s only been tornadoes
in my life
mighty, terrifying storms;
but I know how to duck and cover.

1 comment:

  1. Back in my older olden days outside of Chicago, we sat in the hallway of the elementary school with our coats over our heads. That would have been -so- effective if a Bomb had detonated downtown 20 miles away from us. And so we learn from those duck and cover moments. This DOES come in handy every so often.