Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Post Hurricane Poem: "Exodus"

I've been interested to watch my Facebook feed, to see how many posts are people weighing in about Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey and its floods and to see how many people are talking politics.  As someone who lives in hurricane country, I can't take my eyes off the Texas news.   I tend to worry more about winds and trees falling over.  But this current storm shows us the power of flooding rain.

I remember after Hurricane Katrina hearing about people who stockpiled water and food the way that they were supposed to and then the floods washed them away.  I remember being horrified by people who couldn't get out of the way, like people in hospitals and nursing homes.  We had had a terrible year personally, in terms of my mother-in-law's broken hip and her subsequent death by medical-industrial complex.  And I'm always aware of other apocalypses that wait in the wings.

All of those images came together in this poem, previously unpublished:


The swampland family stockpiles against storms,
supplies that are swept to sea
as the storm overwhelms the earth and the dams
designed to contain it.

In a distant hospital bed, antibiotics
flow into the veins of an older woman with a broken
hip. Microbes laugh at this attempt
to turn the tide as they flood her flesh.

On the opposite side of the planet, officials order
the slaughter of every bird in the country.
Some fly across the border.

Desperate to pack flesh on your frail frame,
she bakes every sweet treat you used to crave.
It’s the week the nausea attacks
you with apocalyptic vigor.

He keeps vigil by his mother’s bed
thinking that the doctors will take greater care.
He pretends to understand the markings
on her chart, the tidal flow of fluids.

I am tempted to try the tricks
of ancient peoples, to paint
the doorposts with blood, to offer
sacrifices, to dress in costumes
to keep my identity hidden from avenging angels.

Instead I keep the candles lit
and read the sacred texts. I make
sandwiches for the ones who deal with damage.
I listen for the call to leave,
ready to flee at a moment’s notice.
I keep my shoes laced, my camel tethered nearby.

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