Tuesday, September 7, 2004

BEFORE A HURRICANE

This is an original poem (copyright in effect; just let me know if you'd like to publish or copy it) that I worked on during my fascination with Hurricane Frances:

If you lived near a beach in the tropics
out of reach of a radio signal,
how would you know a hurricane was coming?

Would you note a disquieting calm
that spoke nothing of the future but
reminded you of some distinct past;
a heaven-sent day like this, all bright,
followed by howling, hellish torrents?

Would you see a sign on the horizon,
something you strain daily to see
yet hope never to set eyes on again,
some pattern, some hue, some glow,
some shadow emerging at the rim of your world?

Would you smell a hurricane
though it be hundreds of miles away,
an aroma wafted, perhaps from Cape Verde,
a wisp pushed ahead by a band of wind
flung far from the cyclone’s spiraling eye?

Would sea creatures or water fowl tip you
to the hurricane’s invisible approach?
How much sooner do their senses perceive
a change in the air and water that signal
a colossal disturbance and they flee?

Would there be washed-up debris that
gave away the storm’s stealthy intentions;
would unusual or distant gifts of the tide
alert you to the encroaching chaos--
foreign seaweed, fabric, a floatation device?

Or would there be no way of knowing--
no forewarning, no perceptible clue--
until a few ominous hours before landfall,
when the surf starts to pound and
winds begin to buffet all you have known?

Would you have to decide what to save,
what you could carry on your back, in your arms,
what, of a lifetime of labor and love,
was worth salvaging at all costs and
what would become fodder for the behemoth?

Would you then flee the sea for high ground,
taking cover; seeking shelter for your soul?
And would you pray as you retreated--
pray for mercy, pray for safety,
pray, at last, for life, at least, to be spared?

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