by Judy Whitehill Witt

I blame Dorothy –
fantasy morphed to nightmare at age six.
I’d spot a skinny neck descending
from stooped shoulders of blue-black clouds,

fangs ripping ground, mouth gulping houses,
bicycles, cornstalks, sucking Lake Erie
through a straw, spitting out stripped branches
stuck in its teeth miles from toppled trees,

roaring, rumbling on its flight path
straight toward me. Tucked covers only egged it on.
Sometimes it’d snatch my bed, play with its prey,
give me a spin around its gullet, a coaster plunging

skyward. If I’d crouch in a closet or flatten in a ditch,
it might teasingly wing by, wait for another night,
another night. Or it might bring more in its wake,
three or seven, maybe eleven hell-bent fiends.

I don’t know why it came so often, or why it stopped.
Dare I rouse that old dragon? Will whispering its name
draw it back into my slumber? Did I disappoint it
when I hid myself, my sons, their friends so well?

I survey unsettled skies, bellies of clouds,
alert to the slightest harbinger of funnel necks,
freight train roars, vortex breath,
ready in a flash to shepherd family to shelter

and wait till the voice no longer bellows.

After three decades of working with computer programs (a form of not-so-free verse), Judy has turned all her attention to playing with words. Though she’s won eleven awards from Virginia writers’ clubs for various works, this is her first literary publication. She’s currently querying agents for her first book, Twice Upon a Trip, about her quest to track down an anonymous early 19th century diarist. As she followed this young American’s trail through Europe, she sensed him slyly smiling over her shoulder, waiting for her to discover his name. She didn’t disappoint him. Judy blogs about writing, travel, and genealogy at