Along Tornado Alley – by Tom Laughlin

“The power’s out—I’m going to bed”
he says and heads up
the worn wooden staircase
that fourth step still creaking
railing loose at the top.

After eighty years in Wichita
he’s grown used to twisters
warnings on the radio.
Sometimes you know they’re coming
sometimes not.

He’s seen roofs ripped off
houses shredded like tissue paper
fence posts speared into oak trees
and friends
or what remained of them.
He’d been taught in school how to run
to storm cellars, brace himself in
door frames, pray.

In total darkness tonight
he strips to his boxers
says goodnight to photos on the wall
feels the lack of weight at the foot of the bed
while reciting his nighttime prayer
and reaching to touch the cold pillow beside him.
He listens to rain pummeling the clapboards
howling winds rattling a pane in need of puttying
and waits for sleep.

Tom Laughlin is a professor at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts where he teaches creative writing, literature, and composition courses, as well as coordinating a visiting writer series. His poetry has appeared in Green Mountains Review, Ibbetson Street, Drunk Monkeys, Sand Hills Literary Magazine, Blue Mountain Review, and elsewhere. His poetry chapbook, The Rest of the Way, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (July 2022).