Monday, August 29, 2011

Tuesday Poem--Hurricane Season

The Queen Anne’s lace is tatty, unmended. A pair of paper whites waltz by, 

settling in the silver-gray sea moss. It’s dead low tide. The breeze has been

stripped of its scents--not the stink of the salt flats, nor fish beached for miles

in the seaweed’s garottes, knotted with raided mussel shells. Summer’s defeat 

is total. Above the marsh the air is charged--thunderheads already banked 

over the causeway, over chimneys in indigo towers, the blue about to boil

to black. They’re starting to pull in their boats at little marinas, up and down 

the fractals of the coast. At the top of the Crest, TV cameras are set to catch 

the furious Atlantic, surf hurling itself at the seawall, sending plumes sixty feet

in the air to roar in an arch over the width of the Boulevard, pounding cars 

and siding with relentless cataracts of stones. By the time she hits full force, 

I’ll be curled in bed inside the howl--no longer counting heartbeats between 

the thunder’s boom and incandescence splitting the sky.  The lightning’s flash

of blue powder will capture the marsh on out-dated glass negatives. A figure 

surfaces in the transparency, wearing the mist of a colorless rainbow across 

her shoulder like a quiver strap. Sand runs from my hair, salt stings my lips. 

It is Irene herself--both the named storm and the goddess of peace 

in her white gown--awaiting the unappeasable hurricane’s afterbirth.


  1. Fantastic to read this rather than news and weather reports! How much more I feel it....

  2. Hello, Mary, dear. Everyone didn't get through it as easily as we did. Thank God it's over. It was rather miserable of the universe to give us an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week. Now they're sure that the nuclear plant near the epicenter in Virginia didn't weather it as well as they first thought. Claire's candles, all around. xo

  3. This really does give something of the feeling of what we've seen in the photographs. I am glad you came through safely.

  4. Thanks, Helen. I think on this blog I have comments moderation checked off, so I had to read your comment before it was approved and posted. Thanks for thinking of us, Helen.

  5. Dear M, what a poem! I woke at before 3.00 this morning, came here and tumbled headlong into your weather. The dreams that followed were atmospherically charged; a series of wild negotiations requiring divining rods and the taming of high blue flames - flames like those at the tip of a welder's torch. Your words constructed shelter, anchor points, the promise of safety. Here and in the dream. The image of Irene '. . . wearing the mist of a colorless rainbow across/ her shoulder like a quiver strap' is chilling. And don't we all carry both the goddess of peace and an (un)named storm within us. . . Powerful stuff, dear M. xo

  6. Dear Claire, I don't know whether to thank you or apologize for the intense reaction you had to this poem--such dreams and terror that scorch the soul. But tumbling headlong into poetry does that, as you know--you felt Irene, both the goddess and the storm, in every cell of your being. Poetry is not for sissies, is it? xoxo

  7. As Claire noted, the storms within and without. What imagery and language...the powder flash and the glass negative, all is sealed in place and time. Irene, by your hand, becomes one of the half-seen spirits from the Kurosawa we saw last night. Your poem does tell us much more about the hurricane than the statistics. The numbers are news but atmosphere is an entity. xo

  8. i am struck, too, by the dual meanings of the language you have chosen, melissa, and the contrary visions: the prophetic image in 'dead low': the afterbirth of the hurricane; you, curled inside the howl with labor pains. we do wish/hope/have to believe that we will live through these destructive forces for some purpose...we insist on meaning, i guess.

    (and, still, the obstacles = cataracts/stones)

  9. Imagination is the midwife to storms, births, deaths, the idea of heaven being populated by gods, goddesses, the notion that Acts of God and acts in our own personal hells must mean something. We are metaphor-making creatures and beings who need to find meaning when there may be none because the idea of a random, meaningless universe is too crushing--our fragile souls couldn't stand up in such a whirlwind of despair. We connect the dots of all kinds of things because it is necessary for our psychic survival.

    Pontification, anyone? xo

  10. Oh Melissa- this poem does soothe my psyche! (And you had power on Monday?!) It is as chilling as Irene was coming in, and as warm and breezy as she left us.

    I agree with the others, this is the richness that we miss with ordinary broadcast news (which I no longer have the nerve to watch). A beautiful homage to the storms that brew without and within.

  11. An astonishing poem, the weather, the marshes, a perfect painting, one not only seen in the mind's eye, but felt along the nerve endings of skin, felt as a mood pervading the heart, an excitement, a meditation, a love song.

    i had so many responses to this as I read, but mostly I was in awe.

  12. dear Jayne, I'm glad to know you made it through/are making it through life's tempests. Thank you for your kind words. I find the news so battering these days, I've gone without television for two years; I find I can't concentrate enough to do my work in such a concatenation of sound and fury. I've been a newspaper reader of great intensity since I was twelve, and have had to give that up as well. xo

  13. Dear Angella, so glad to see you here. Thank you for your beautiful and spot-on descriptions of what I hoped the poem would do, but one never knows for sure. I mean, I feel sure-footed in writing it, but not ever sure if the poem is as clear as it was meant to be. A response like yours---like all of the responses written here--makes me feel as though I've done my work. xo

  14. Marylinn, I forgot you--I'm sorry. Yes, the eeriness of having the goddess/storm Irene caught and sealed in the glass negatives where everything is backward, white for black, and fragile, and 'other'--ancient, as far as our world is now, ages and ages ago. xo