A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Under the strobes mounted on their camoed Jeeps
National Guardsmen seem to wobble as they check
my ID before waving me into the dark.
This is not my neighborhood. I live further inland
and have returned to watch my mother’s house
after the water moved where it never had before.
Where we never thought it would. The lamp
in her front hall the still point of illumination
as the tide backlaps through dark yards, dark houses
back over the berms the town built years ago
back into the Sound’s shallow basin.
An isosceles of yellow police tape flutters from an oak
to the minivan it crushed, as though what happened here
was just a Mischief Night toiletpapering. This is not
my neighborhood. Tomorrow we’ll find starfish
in the climbing hydrangea trained along the fence.
The stench of something between death and heating oil
will assert itself with the sun. Now the urge to ebb
to recoil in apology for the avoidable
for the unfixable, for the spitting wires dangling from trees
for the ruined photographs that would have given
our lives a chance of being remembered
by those who follow, for the poisoned
backyard gardens and the last puckered tomatoes
on blackened vines in this neighborhood not mine.
of a flooded
millions of stiff
up beam and
up curtain and
Like a candle’s
mold black mold.
The scales are tipping. Let them tip.
Resist the urge
to right the ship, let the sea
have its due and the earth have its due.
History may appear asleep
but it is awake, and moving.
Let the hands of consequence set to work
on the unbuilding of beam, board, pane
of stainless and automatic.
Let it topple, flatten, rot.
Let the movement be horizonward.
Time is coming, has come.
Let the harrier nest in these reeds again
intent, listening for scurriers.
Let this be salt marsh, hunting plain, birthplace and grave
not a neighborhood.
Copyright 2014 Leslie McGrath
(originally published in Devouring the Green: Fear of a Human Planet, Jaded Ibis Press, 2014)