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.

14 Replies to “Next Door to Dorothy”

  1. I was always sad when Dorothy returned home, because I didn’t much want to return to my own. Hang out with the Munchkins from the first Oz scene and screw the shoes.

  2. When I was a boy we didn’t have color TV. Every year we watched the Wizard of Oz in black and white and for me the whole movie relied more on my imagination that perhaps the movie had originally intended. I didn’t know the shoes were red or that the Wicked Witch’s skin was green. The Horse of a Different Color just seemed different shades of grey.

    Then in 1987, while sitting on the lawn in front of the public theatre on the Esplanade in Boston, I had the opportunity to see the Wizard of Oz again. I sat there among about 1000 other people, happily gazing at the black and white opening scenes of the movie. Then suddenly, when the house landed in Oz the whole screen blushed into color! I was astounded! Amidst those 1000 people you could hear a tiny voice exclaim, “My God! It’s all in color! I never knew!”

  3. I read this poem through about 3 times on my last visit, and a couple of times on this one. It’s super, Dave.
    Btw, re: butuki’s comment. I never actually saw the Wizard of Oz in colour until many years after first seeing it in b&w. Similar reaction.
    Another btw: For many years, I’ve had recurring dreams of tornadoes (quite bizarre ones). A couple of years ago, I found out that a writer friend has been having them for years too.

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    Zhoen – Did you ever read any of the other Oz books? They were among the first substantial books I read on my own, as an 8-year-old (although my home life was perfectly happy). Dorothy does pretty much move back to Oz for good. I think she brings her parents with her.

    Bobby – I don’t know about disasters, but it’s a fact that the snow was deeper and the winters were colder when I was a kid. And I miss that.

    butuki – That’s funny. We didn’t have TV at all, but I saw the Wizard of Oz several times on the color TV set at my Nanna and Pop-pop’s house (maternal grandparents). I think the moral that “there’s no place like home” really resonated with them, conservative nationalists as they were.

    bev – As wild as my dreamlife can be, I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed about tornadoes, bizarre ones or otherwise. I wonder what that means?

  5. This is. Wow. I thought of Dorothy Wordsworth at first, of course. One of my children found the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz so frightening that he refused even to allow us to keep the video in the house and we had to show him how we took it away and put it in a bin on the street. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere :-)

  6. Yeah, that green skin was pretty over-the-top. Might be a sign of advanced putrefaction. One of the creepy (to me) things about Oz, as revealed in the later books, is that no living organism can ever grow old and die – except the bad witches (Glenda the Good Witch stays young and beautiful, and can come into contact with water without any adverse effects). I think L. Frank Baum must have been an extraordinarily prudish fellow.

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