My father says we have plenty of time
to get in our car and make it safely home.
He tells me that on the farm he chased tornadoes’
black funnels in his pickup.
Don’t you want to see a hurricane?
I am five. We are alone
on the emptied out beach. When the siren shrilled,
mothers collected children, teenagers switched off
transistor radios, lifeguards hoisted red flags
and climbed down from high white chairs.
No one is left here but us.
The wind sucks away the sun, rips my bucket and shovel
from my hands, stings my skin with sand.
An aluminum chair does cartwheels in front of us.
A policeman drives by, crushing sand castles, shouts
at my father through a megaphone,
What’s the matter with you? Get the hell out of here!
then drives away under the swaying spider-legged pier.
The ocean is noisier, angrier than Niagara Falls
where we went last summer. In the museum we saw
wooden barrels people curled in
to go over the roaring water. My father said he would do it
in a heartbeat. My mother said he was crazy.
He folds me tighter against his chest.
Watch the horizon.
When we see the spout, we’ll leave.
He laughs at the wind snatching at me,
at the ocean standing up, reaching for us.
Don’t worry. I can outrun anything.
Janis Harrington, who lives in Geneva, Switzerland, has published poems, short stories and nonfiction in literary journals, anthologies and magazines in Europe and the United States. She has a master of arts in English and creative writing from North Carolina State University.
*Editor’s Note: This poem received an honorable mention in The 2008 New Southerner Literary Contest.