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Leslie McGrath: Surge/Wick/Raze

1. Surge

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.


2. Wick

After water



the wicking

begins. Think

of a flooded

house as

thirsty drinker



millions of stiff


up beam and


up curtain and


Like a candle’s

capillary action

channeling fuel

to flame

wicked water

erupts into

mold black mold.


3. Raze

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)


East Haven, CT after Hurricane Sandy

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