A Child Wrestles With Theodicy in Mississippi Springs (Intégrité, 2019)

When tornadoes came, Sis and I moved 

with lightning speed to grab transistors, 

wedge on batting helmets, and anchor ourselves 

under pillows and blankets in the claw-foot tub. 

Our mother read Psalm 91 by flashlight 

as the overheads strobed, popped, and failed. 

You will not fear the terror of the night, 

or the arrow that flies by day

We could always hear the train—not a 

dissonant horn, but the violent rumble-chug 

of twisted air laying its own tracks—closer 

or in some other family’s yard. 

A thousand may fall at your side, 

ten thousand at your right hand, 

but it will not come near you. 

When the silence won, every time, 

we unfixed our knees and elbows from 

cold porcelain and set out to 

check on neighbors, report downed lines. 

We’d find chimney bricks in drainage gutters, 

pine needles pierced through trunks, 

but everyone we knew whole and thanking God.

Next to my Cheerios, the sprawled morning 

paper ran death tolls, 

photos of oaks dissecting Camrys, 

someone’s grandmother 

missing near the county line. 

The Lord has his way in the whirlwind and the storm,

and the clouds are the dust of his feet.