By Joseph Hesch
I tried not to look at them, the picturesof History’s erasure by a watery scribe
named Irene. She cleaned our broad board
of homes and lives with a red tide of rain
and bad intent, a substitute teacher
who deleted generations of life and livelihood
with her two-day lesson followed by
no one knows how many years
of weeping review.
Where the Mohawk and Hudson,
more dependable than the class-bell crocus,
signal the coming Spring
with their centuries’-old icy combat
for that one last seat in their riparian game
of musical chairs, I tried not to listen
to the roaring music.
I knew there could be no winner
and I didn’t want to hear the names of friends
who would finally lose their homes to,
of all things, a Summer torrent
of surprise and tears.
It’s those salty drops I’ll remember most,
not the gale-blown rains,
the road-ripping spatter of emboldened creeks,
the drip-drip of time waiting
for it all to end.
For many, it will never end.
For children, the nightmares
will echo like the storm's thunder,
even after their trailer-schools move
to a new place of drowned dreams.
The debt-relieving, yet never-harvested,
bumper crops will scar memories
of farms that may never push corn
toward a sky from which their demise
was written in water, carved deeply
in new courses. These courses not taught,
but watched, waiting for something
that may never come again,
yet was never expected to come
in the first place.
(Photo at top by Wil Waldron, Albany Times Union. Photo above from The Saratogian.)
I honestly didn't want to write a poem about Hurricane Irene. But I learned this morning that a couple of old friends lost their home in that Waterford neighborhood above. "Waterford," what an ironic name, bespeaking a safe crossing of the river depths, for a town that annually (and temporarily) floods so many of its inhabitants from their homes. My friends' home was lifted from its foundation and is no longer habitable. I really don't know what to think of this poem, but I'm glad I got it out of my system. Maybe I can look at it as my way of expressing my condolences to those who lost so much in Irene, when I just had to pick up some branches.
This poem is being linked to dVerse Poets Pub's Open Link Night. Stop by and check out the wonderful array of poets and their works.