Next Door to Dorothy

for R., with love

Next door to Dorothy, there’s
another girl who stays behind
in Kansas, who sleeps through storms,
her father a slab-faced drunk,
mother vicious with regret
for this brood she should have
drowned at birth, because they so
distract her from her spells
& weather-making. The daughter
hides in her bed & petitions
the great and powerful wizard
for a way out.

Thirty years on, oblivion doesn’t
seem any closer. She has two
kids of her own, now, who creep
quietly past her bedroom door.
A tornado comes & makes off
with the neighbor’s roof. Sirens,
helicopters. She stirs awake.
Why couldn’t it have been me,
my house,
she asks the crack
in the ceiling.

Oz is only three clicks of the mouse
away, & the fact that it’s no place
like home is an inducement
to visit often. But we read her latest
messages & lose our appetite
for dancing in circles. Weeds
sprout between the yellow bricks.
Maybe I should retrieve that old
heart from its safe-deposit box?
I lie awake shivering as the first
serious snowstorm of the year turns
the world back to black & white.

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