Today's poem is by Stephanie E. Schlaifer


Almost always,
this is what they call it

      The mark in the landscape
      the dark streak in the landscape

so intently cut
it looks innocent enough

only a chalk line     fuzzed out to its edges and
smooth as a banister

      unpredictable     then
regrettably distinct

what is clear from above
in the aftermath
The path of a tornado
sweeps clean across
whole fields and towns
sometimes     whole states

and leaves a scar that tenors
like a Rothko     it hums
what it obliterates

the afterward     a lapping wind
like a woman cutting muslin
at a table     a muted sound
of yardages unbolting

It is a kind of onomatopoeia—
an influence
of both destruction
and yield

Not surprisingly,
the word has its origins in grain—
areas rich with it seem
easiest to devastate

The swath     a measure of the width
of a grassland
reckoned by the width
of the scythe—

a long and curving blade,
fastened at an angle
to a long handle
a pair of hands
under which
whole fields give way.

Copyright © 2012 Stephanie E. Schlaifer All rights reserved
from The Carolina Quarterly
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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