Dear Lily June,
The other day, your cousin Bryden, who just started kindergarten this year, told his mother that, at recess the other day, he’d heard a loud whistle, and his teachers told him it was the “Tomato Alarm.” She giggled and asked him, “What did you guys do when you heard it?” He responded, “They made us go inside.” But when she asked whether they had been able to finish their recess later, he said incredulously, “And risk getting tomatoes rained on us?! I think not!”
Children, Lily, are so innocent and wondrous and imaginative and effortlessly genius. Having lived through a tornado, I know the real threat behind that alarm, and yet, I melt in the face of your five-year-old cousin’s fearless charm in imagining what might be happening. Luckily, Bryden’s in a loving home with parents who appreciate and celebrate his gift for gab. But when the storm takes place, not outside on the playground, but in your own home, part of the terror is that no one is talking about it.
I’m again so grateful, then, to Patricia, author of O-pen-u-nated, for nominating me for the Three Day Quotation Challenge. And because, as I said on Day 1, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’m devoting my words of others to sharing the impact of domestic violence on everyone–on communities/neighborhoods (as in the Hayes poem from Day 1), and now on the children who get swept up in the winds.
My second chosen quotation, following suit, also isn’t really a quotation at all (I know, I know, I cheat again), but another full poem, written by the poet Dana Levin, about what it is to be a child caught up in the “storm” of a violent home.
My house was a house of winds
and my father was of the wind
and we were of the earth
and we were torn by him,
we were stripped by him,
by the bellows of his body,
by the twisting of his voice
coming shaking, elemental, before the kitchen table
where we sat like stones and he stood
like a hammer over the rocks
of our faces, and threw down the glasses
and threw down the plates, the hail of him
scattering across the tiled floor
as he whirled in fury out the back door,
slamming into the air–
He was gone, he was gone
and the storm was coming, I could hear it
on the radio crackling in the kitchen
as we ran out of the door and headed
for the cellar, the dirty wind gusting
and stinging our eyes as my mother
bent down and hurried with the lock–
When she opened the cellar doors
I thought I saw him coming, the grass
bowing down, bowing down, bowed flat
by the black clouds bearing down
like fists, so I ran out to the field
and opened my arms, the flayed skin of my coat
rippling behind me, the voice of my sister
calling my name, as I streamed out like a flag
into the currents and felt the wind slam
into all of my sockets, and stood like a stick
and was whittled to pieces,
flying off with the twigs
that kept pelting my face–
I was in the air
but in the arms of my mother,
clutching me and running us back
towards the cellar, and I held her, looking back
and saw the tornado twisting down from the sky,
coming for us as we ran on the earth,
and I stretched out my arms because I wanted
to touch it, I stretched out my arms
because I wanted to fly with the fence-posts
into that furious rapture–
And then we were in the cellar,
in the darkness with the jam jars,
while he roared and tore past our doors.
Lily, I make you two promises in this life: I will protect you from winds like these, so that, as a child, they will never blow you down. Also, I will protect you from tomato rain, until and unless you get sprayed by a skunk.
In the meantime, I give out again the Rules for Three-Day Quotation Challenge:
- Thank the blogger, who nominated you. (Hi there, Patricia!)
- Publish 3 quotes on 3 consecutive days in your blog. It can be your own, or from a book, movie or from anyone who inspires you.
- Nominate 3 more bloggers to carry on this endeavor.
So with no further ado, I nominate three more of those I read to take up the charge of sharing what they’ve read so I can read it:
- Taylor Armstrong of Tayls to Tell–I only just discovered this blog recently, but an aspiring poet like herself is sure to be a voracious reader, too. I look forward to reading her quotations from others (assuming she takes me up on this).
- Jasan Waldura B. Sangma of WaldoPhotos–The images on this photographer’s site are breathtaking, so I extend him the special challenge of either connecting a quotation with his extraordinary portraits or taking photos inspired by quotations.
- John Callaghan of Get Off My Lawn–He claims that studying literature has given his “existence meaning and context.” Oh yeah, John? Prove it. Show us some quotations. (Sorry for the familiarity, sir. I didn’t mean to metaphorically tromp across your grass.)
I hope at least one of the nominees will keep this going. And Lily June, be prepared to play the home game and share your favorite quotations from me. You know, once you can comprehend language and all.
- “Storm cellar” by Dorothea Lange/USDA – http://web.archive.org/web/20061002122522/http://www.usda.gov/oc/photo/01di1342.htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Storm_cellar.jpg#/media/File:Storm_cellar.jpg
- Levin, Dana. “Wind.” In the Surgical Theatre. Philadelphia: Copper Canyon Press, 1999. 34-35. Print.