Thinking of Oz
There was the rainbow, right over Peekskill, as I drove my daughter to dance class.
The city Frank hated, his walks near the waterfront, to get away from the military
academy, looking down at the yellow bricks set at sharp angles, the ballast ships
left behind, heavy as that we carry, winding to nowhere along a river that never
reached China. He needed to name this place he wanted to escape to as a girl.
Papers, books piled about him, crowded reality collecting dust until it toppled,
into family and finances. The bottom drawer of his file cabinet tried to contain half
of this, though it would never all fit in there, it was an attempt at classification of
the kingdoms to label that drawer O-Z. Yes, he would go to Oz, escape these clouds
and thunderstorms and head right for the rainbow, that seemed to end at where the
nuclear power plant is now, and he would be a girl, running away from it all.
He liked reading Robespierre. There was something so clean-cut about his ideas.
Virtue and terror. He could imagine tin man who wished for virtue, in the heart he
thought he did not have, his sharpened axe always at his side, ready for revolution.
He still remembered when he was a mortal man, with all his limbs and virtue.
Each of his arms and legs was hacked off, and virtue seemed lost somewhere
in the bloodletting.
He would make friends with a lion, such a royal beast, who sought one thing and
one thing only: "terror". He believed he was a coward and that terror would make
him complete, a respected ruler of his forest kingdom.
Virtue and terror, hand in axe handle, down the ballast brick road in Peekskill,
footsteps from where Lincoln stopped and made a brief speech before the Civil War.
And who could unite these two more than their own emptiness, outsiders
of the wild forest? A skinny scarecrow from the country, who craves logic to rule
over it all, one who can chase the carrion birds away. He would go on to help melt
a black queen of the West and depose a green king, and become emperor himself.
Logic, to guide virtue, which is useless without terror. North or South, East or West.
And Frank ran, in his gingham dress, with his favorite dog, away from home
and all who didn't understand him.
A storm would rip his house away, land it crashing in some alternate 9th Ward,
where everybody looks like an unwrapped lollipop. Frank would be the first to kill,
a queen from the East. Heathen country. His parents hoped he would finish at the
military academy in Peekskill and go west, across the Hudson River, to the marvelous
pride of West Point, and wear the pretty officers' uniforms there, like they did in Oz.
But his parents were not in the house when he flew away with it,
killed for the first time, made new friends who helped him kill and depose
great powers, lead winged monkey insurrections, and overturn a false government.
Pretty good for a girl in gingham who didn't want to be a soldier.
Perhaps Frank's parents would have been proud.