Sunday, October 1, 2017

Poetry Sunday: "Jamestown"

Yesterday, I had several gatherings with different types of friends:  my quilting group that had been put off because of the hurricane and my every other month haircut that's an abbreviated spa day with a different set of friends.

It's always interesting being with different groups of people, but I was fascinated with our various responses to Hurricane Irma.  One of my friends is in the process of moving to Gainesville, and she has properties in three places (Ft. Lauderdale, Gainesville, and the mountains of North Carolina), and all three were affected by the storm--that geography tells you about the breadth and strength of the storm. 

Some of us worry about how we will deal with these storms as we age.  Some of us prefer hurricanes to other struggles that the natural world presents because at least we know they are coming.  We are all concerned that our insurance costs will rise and that we will be unable to afford to live here.

It seems likely that Hurricane Irma will have a similar effect to the storm seasons of 2004 and 2005:  many people will make some life decisions that they wouldn't have made without the push of a major hurricane.

When I think about my creative trajectory, I see an uptick in poems with an apocalyptic tone after the storms of 2004 and 2005.  Just before the storm, the woman who cuts my hair had discovered that she didn't have a wind policy to protect her home.  She said, "I packed everything that was important to me in the car, and I drove to Virginia to start a new life."

Her comment--indeed the whole day--made me think of poems that I wrote earlier.  This one was partly sparked by the comments of historians on the 400th anniversary of Jamestown in 2007.

She remembers only one
fact from years of studying American History.
Not one colony survived
for very long without women settlers.
Without the women, the men planted just one
crop, tobacco, with no nutritive value.
The ground devoted to addiction, the colony starving.

She returns to her handy needle
to sew tubes of seeds into her hemline.
She measures the weight of her possessions
with a calculating eye.
She discards the frivolous scraps of silk
that once passed for undergarments.
She adds a well-seasoned skillet to her pack,
a way to cook as well as a weapon.

She locks the house but leaves the key.
She threads the needle
through her shirtsleeve where she won't lose
track of it. She sets off for civilization.

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