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"Cobalt" (2005), by Lawrence Tarpy


When the sky threw down hail, I knew
        our world was sudden, changing. In the violence of rains
                we ran, I held my daughter with her water-soaked braids.
She covered her ears and counted
        one Mississippi, two Mississippi
                the space between lightning and thunder.
We heard sirens. Birds fled the sky. Soon
        the wick of the world smelled matchstick blue.
                three Mississippi, four
When the winds had blown off all the doors
        we were soldered only by a handhold.
                I’m not a believer
but I took shelter inside a prayer
        when I saw a white horse
                fly across the sky.
one Mississippi, two
I tried to tether you
to me. Through sweeping winds
of glass and debris
        I struggled to see.
I watched my daughter fly away
        from the grapnel of my arms. Unmoored
                like a skiff, she sailed alone out the window.
I awoke into the fingertips of rain
        light against my face. Wreckage
                of a new world greeted me—
a baby blue bicycle lodged in an oak tree,
        bright spoke beads in the shape of stars
                on a wheel still spinning.

Listen to Ansel Elkins read “Tornado”

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Ansel Elkins

Ansel Elkins is the author of Blue Yodel, winner of the 2014 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize. Her other honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Antiquarian Society, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, as well as a “Discovery”/Boston Review Prize. Elkins’s writing appears regularly in the American Scholar, the Believer, Virginia Quarterly Review, and this magazine.