About the Tornado

I burn most of the things I own
right after buying them. Some of them
are cigarettes, and I guess that’s okay,
but often while driving to work
I’ll forget my left hand set the house
on fire while my right hand set
the house on fire.

I like it when old people tell me
about how everything used to be better
before I was born. I don’t think
I’m the problem. Young people
often tell me to go away
when I sit in the tattoo parlor
and tell them they are making
a horrible mistake.

But I don’t think they’re the problem
either. Most of this city is grass
spread out on each side of the expressway.
When mowed, it’s easy to compare the surface
of the Earth to your very own face,
but there are differences,
just like the difference between architecture
the concept and architecture the actual stuff.

When I set fire to this town,
watching the fairgrounds melt
like metal and candle wax
I will smoke a cigarette, and it will
just be something I did.
Firemen will try to arc their hoses
high enough to put out the ferris wheel,
but up there, at the top, there is no fire
and there can be no water.

Most of the old people
understand this truth,
and that is why they sit there
and let flies settle in their glasses
and let the beer go flat
just so they can tell me
that the town you’re born in
is the only town you’ll ever really live in.
Being Texans, they actually believe this.

Young people, too, think they are wise
about all kinds of things, and even though
they are wrong, this is a kind of wisdom
and it cannot be reproduced.

A tornado came through here once.
Not really, but it could have.
Tornadoes are always showing up.
They never ask if they can stay,
and I guess they never stay that long,
but they leave a mess, an indelible
impression everywhere that they go.
I am not like this.

This makes it incredibly easy to start fires,
and I have started many, but there are always
more, every day, that I haven’t started,
and that’s how I make peace with the idea of it.

There are so many important things to eat.
There are so many important things to drink.
People make movies and often you get to see them.
It’s amazing to sit down after a long walk.
Every few weeks there’s a holiday of some kind,
and your mother sends you card. It isn’t much,
but it’s unexpected so it means a lot.
And then you burn it.

This poem previously appeared in Sink Review.

Steve Roberts has a bachelors and masters degree in creative writing and
poetry from the College of Santa Fe and the New School. He’s been
previously published in the tiny, Sink Review and the Hartskill Review. He
lives in Dallas with his spouse and two cats.

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