Al Maginnes: “Weather That Takes Us Home”


For Sandy Longhorn

If it’s true that weather sculpts landscape
then I should be writing this from a sand dune
nestled in the icy hold of a glacier.
This morning a ghosting of frost on the grass
gave way to warmth enough for shorts
and tanktops. By late afternoon, we’ll be
zipped into hoodies, searching for sweaters
we shed after coffee. In the Midwest, where
you grew up, were weather vanes perched
on barns and outbuildings, and did they,
like ours, freeze with rust and point
only a single direction? In Iowa, where
I have never been, I imagine
weather being larger, more majestic, than
we can imagine or acknowledge. Where I live,
we hate to accept any power larger
than ourselves. So we die in house trailers
blown apart by tornadoes, wreck our cars
in hurricanes as we drive around looking for beer.
When I was small, we moved so often
no landscape got to mark me. Did you ever,
when you were small, watch your mother hang
wash on the line, and did you, when she was finished,
lie on the ground, under the damp sheets
and white shirts and breathe in that cleanliness
while you stared into an endlessness of sky,
one way to escape the uncertain weather
that is childhood? There is always a storm cocked
and ready on the edge of a kid’s existence, a move,
a sudden illness, someone with sharp fists
ready to define the angles of your face. There is
the wreckage of a report card to bring home.
One night, not long before another move, I woke
to hear The Kingston Trio singing “The Reverend
Mr. Black” on my parents’ stereo, then a woman
cursing her drunken husband, language I had
never heard one spouse use on another before,
then the dark voices of men singing the chorus
over her rage. I listened after the record stopped,
after the woman got her husband out of the chair
where he’d slept through her tirade, and I knew
the world would never shed its confusion.
I would always be driving through storms, bending
to see a little further down the road
that was, however slowly, taking me home.

Al Maginnes’s collections are Ghost Alphabet (White Pine Press, 2008), winner of the White Pine Poetry Prize, and two chapbooks published in 2010, Between States (Maine Street Rag Press) and Greatest Hits 1987-2010 (Pudding House Publications). He has published widely in journals, such as Terminus, Harpur Palate, Grist, Brilliant Corners, Baltimore Review, Verdad, Hampden Sydney Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

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