In consideration of the impending landfall of Hurricane Hermine, a poem for the hunkering. —LJ

POETRY, February 1981

HURRICANE
by David Bottoms

1

At twilight
the leaves of palmettos screeching like cicadas,
orange limbs rustling around green oranges,
oleanders whining toward the west.
Over the edge of the field,
the pinetops breaking like white water, and the first rain
squalling in from the sea, peppering hollow on the storm awnings,
washing down the latticed door.

At the church site across the field, animation
and rapture,
lumber scraps rising out of the dirt like Baptists
at the Second Coming. Over the tractor shed
a swirl of shingles, gray wings
beating into the grove, lodging in branches
or rising into the pines across the road.

As long as the gray light holds under the clouds
we stand at the door
and watch how the wind breathes a special life
into everything not tied down.

2

And when the drenched light dies, we sit
in candlelight
and listen to the voice on the radio static,
north-northwest, twelve miles an hour,
and the repeated cautions of fallen wires, bad water,
the deceptive calm of the eye
and the wind that whirls back without warning.

What whirls now are shadows
as the candle flickers from the ledge above the cabinet
and the kitchen falls black,
the wind bombing the house with oranges, whistling
under the storm awnings rattling against the walls.

And we wonder if the roof will hold, wonder
until the shot cracks behind us
and a window shatters from a church-stud driven
through an awning, wind exploding the room in glass
shrapnel
as we fall from our chairs, in time or not,
to shield our faces from the slivers, to find a door
and close it behind us, give the kitchen up
to the storm.

3

Light gathers
behind a glass door,
and a scrub lizard crawls down the screen.
The oleanders lean back toward the ocean;
bark peeled and strewn,
the melaleuca shakes broken limbs toward the sun.

We cross the grass blown dry in the gales,
walk rows of orange trees and kick the fallen fruit,
piece together a picture of the damage,
a wrecked kitchen, a shed wall collapsed and blown away,
a few lines downed by limbs. Not so much.
Even the half-moon scabbing above my eye
is a good sign, something to be glad for. The way
the quail whistles its reprieve from the saw grass
across the road,
the ox beetle gores up through blown sand.

Image Credit

(Pro-tip: email subscribers click title for NASA’s color satellite imagery of Hurricane Hermine)

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