How to Create A Nervous Child Who Winds Up With Panic Disorder
and Recurrent Dreams of Planes Falling And Tornados
Let her be born in 1951 or so.
Live in northern Dade County, Florida where the worst thunderstorms cross
from the Gulf to the Atlantic and lightning dances on the lawn.
Tell her stories about people doing ordinary things
in their houses and getting struck by lightning.
Take her to movies where UFOs land and children
witness their parents’ bodies taken over by aliens.
Take her to fires. To see a plane that just crash-landed
in a vacant lot, the pilot (head bleeding and smoking a cigaret)
propped against a tree.
Move to a house on the western edge where wildcats still roam at night
and airplanes make sonic booms that rattle the windows.
When she is outside playing and fat crop dusters fly low
spraying poison for mosquitos, shriek suddenly,
snatch her up from her game and race into the house.
Put her in school where she will regularly crouch under her desk
after seeing a film with Tommy the Turtle cheerfully saying, “bombs
can come any time -- even from a clear blue sky -
so always be ready to duck & cover.”
Talk about the Russians launching Sputnik, banging shoes,
and threatening to bury us until she can only sleep
if she dictates letters to Nikita Khruschev
begging to be friends.
Move east, very close to the air raid siren
that is tested at 1 p.m. every Saturday after cartoons.
Be living in a city 229 miles from Havana in October, 1962.
Don’t think to hide newspapers until after she has read the lurid details
of ‘Miami’s most sadistic slaying.’
until she cries all one Easter after reading about the man
who drove into a canal and drowned
after buying baskets for his four children.
In her head, more than half a century later,
she will still see what her imagination conjured then:
pink and yellow and green grass
and chocolate bunnies and jelly beans
floating around his corpse.
She will still hear how she imagined the children wept
for their daddy, got death instead of Easter and resurrection.
She will dream of things falling on her from a clear blue sky.
She will abandon shopping carts and run out of grocery stores
panic-stricken for no rational reason.
She will know in her bones that bad things
can come any time.
Zann Carter is a poet and fiber artist in Terre Haute, Indiana, where she co-hosts a monthly poetry reading and has chaired workshops on healing through expressive arts and storytelling.. Her work has been published in Anthroposophical Journal, Arts Illiana Spectrum, Ides of March, and, most recently, in SageWoman, The Healing Muse and Dirty Chai. She has twice received the Grand Prize in the Max Ehrmann Poetry Competition.