One Mississippi

Someone’s cousin‘s friend taught us meteorology early that summer
When you hear the thunder you count the seconds until you see the lightning
That’s how far away the tornado is from where you are in your back yard
We never saw a tornado except during our annual viewing of The Wizard of Oz

My father used to like to tease me and my brother about causing an earthquake
We never saw one of them either – not where we were – not one

When it rained, we all ran out to that wide-open space just beyond the back porch
We would dance around like spastic B-girls – undulating with no sense of rhythm

The rain was our salvation
The rain was our forgiveness
The rain was our acceptance

Our smooth young faces got dashed by the sweet heavy rain drops
We laughed and the rain forced the sweat down our faces and into our mouths
Then the thunder would crash and we froze in place and counted

One Mississippi
Two Mississippi
Three Mississippi

The lighting would cleave the sky and light up our faces for a moment
We knew there was a tornado three miles away from our back yard
We had no actual conception of what three miles meant in terms of distance
None of us had ever been allowed to venture past the library on Oak Park Avenue

For that moment we were just joyful to be dancing in the rain
Me and my sister and my neighbor and my buddy and his cousin
Dancing in the rain in a time when life moved slower in that back yard

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