So what I thought was a used book I had ordered through Amazon, turned out to be my two copies of Chautauqua (http://writers.ciweb.org/literary-journal/) that featured my poem Landfall, otherwise known as one of my Katrina poems.
It was a pleasant surprise after a long week of work to remember I am more than just this current time in my life.
Too small to know myself,
I skipped over imaginary hopscotch lines
drawn with my fingertips across Old Mama’s floor.
I tried to sing “Miss Mary Mack” to the click of the peas dropping in the silver pan,
but she shelled faster than my tongue could spit the rhymes
till the bolt jumped from the field to the sky and froze my leg up in an L.
“Hush up quick, chile.
Ain’t nothing but a summer storm.
Move on under the table now. God don’t give us no more than we can handle.”
I sat church-still listening to her hum “Sweet Hour of Prayer”
as the peas echoed the rain on the roof.
I knew the Coast once—
the smell of the fish,
the summer sea warming till the clouds swelled
and lightning jumped from water to sky.
I believed that’s how the Coast would always be,
sculpted, illuminated, grainy, familiar through the seasons.
I thought of strapping myself to a tree, becoming immortal through weathering,
a new legend like Walter Anderson in that skiff
sheltering his canvas under his shirt.
I wrote a song once
about a storm where a girl died
or lived always thinking of death and thought life was a floating mattress.
And I sang this song to the ocean until she answered back,
bade me to understand her and what’s lost
among the soft, gritty deep that seeped between my toes,
as I waded in, calf deep.
The waves played percussion against my knees,
and I learned her song, wrote it in the sand with a shell,
tossed the shell back, watched it skip once, twice.
I heard East Beach is gone.
They say those houses are open coffins.
Highway 90 is the new yacht club.
I heard that Nawlins ain’t nothing more than a bowl of saline and sewage.
And I heard Cowan imploded, all those businesses raw open…
But that’s not as bad as Debuys, where only a wall of Anniston Elementary still stands.
They had those people crowded up in there on cots, thinking they were safe
and had to move them out while Katrina was still pushing in.
The stories that keep coming by phone are worse than I want to believe.
My childhood garden now a playground for seaweed,
hanging upside down from the monkey bars,
daring me to do better.
It didn’t rain when Old Mama died,
and I didn’t cry or think to grieve.
I knew what waited for me—
a life linked together by storms and songs.
And I want to remember this:
It can’t all be gone.
Winn Dixie is opening tomorrow.
Mr. B’s got lights, got internet, got everything but clean water.
And water is coming, bottled, clean, and salt free.
And I didn’t have to swim.
And I didn’t go under.
And I wait for the ring of the phone
to hear what’s gone, what’s there,
what moved across the street
so I can get ready to never see it again.
You heard anything about the Bay?
Anything about Pass Christian?
Ain’t that where the eye landed, fell,
Shut, winked, blew,
and laid down in our bedrooms?
Hush now, it’s time to stop that noise.
Girl, you know, the business of business is business,
And the business of people is dying.
We’re all nothing but bodies,
floating or walking,
singing or hopping,
humming or hoping.
It ain’t nothing but a summer story told by the whining pines,
bowing to pass the secret.
Light a candle. Put down that phone. It’s getting dark now.
Let me tell you about that time when there was still a beach over there,
and the ocean had a song worth singing.