I did it! I'm done! What a month this has been! Of course, most significantly, it's been a month of making time for my poetry even when the going got tough. Heck, I wrote a poem on the day of my induction into the Texas Institute of Letters. I wrote poems in the car, in hotel rooms, doctor's offices, and even a few at work with my students.
All in all, it's been pretty charmed. I had some days of "writer's block" and some poems feel utterly stiff, but I also have some gems that I'll come back to over the summer and rework into something wonderful.
Today's poem, the last poem, was to write about a time I didn't feel safe. The moment that comes to mind most immediately for me is just before Hurricane Harvey hit Beaumont. I felt powerless, terrified, and very small. Of course, if you follow this blog, you know B and I left before the storm hit, and what a privilege it was for us to have the means to do so. We had somewhere to go that would welcome us with open arms.
I'm thinking about the refugees that walked up to the Texas/ Mexico border today seeking asylum. In a small way, I know what it feels like. I can just imagine the heart-break, the powerlessness, they feel. Imagine being turned away and told to go back into the storm? I just can't fathom that.
So this poem is about that feeling, exploring it, and then reaching into what I don't know or understand. I'm writing what I know, and I'm writing into what I don't know.
I had never known this feeling—such fear,
Uncertainty, a sense of helplessness
As the world threatened to end.
Stores closed. Supplies ran out.
Windows boarded up.
How could raindrops
Create such chaos,
I walked through the rain, clutching an umbrella
Feebly in my shaking hand, held it above my hair.
I didn’t know that soon, the sidewalk beneath my feet
Would become a river of debris, fetid water, tears.
Where I come from, the desert, rain gives life,
Innocuous, kind, tinged with the sweet smell of joy.
Today, the air felt thick in throat, the nostrils.
The sky turned cement. You told me, Let’s evacuate,
Get out of here while we still can.
I’m not afraid of rain. I’m not afraid of ran. I’m not afraid of rain,
I tried to tell myself and failed. I’d never felt the rain like this before.
We made the choice to run—to pack our little sedan
With our cats, the only thing precious enough to save
In such a hurry, when that hurricane, hundreds of miles away yet,
Swelled into a monster, the doppler radar a vibrant red
Like a late summer sunset out west.
Me, a woman, apex of evolution,
Afraid of droplets of rain,
what these small insults from the sky
Might accumulate to.
I felt like a child—nowhere to go
but out my window
Into the abyss of night,
better than staying here
And letting the anger of the ocean
Into my own body.
The cats, loose in the backseat,
Had moons for eyes as we headed out
Into the uncertainty of the night,
A hurricane on our heels,
A prayer on the tongue
That wherever morning finds us,
It wraps us in the dry arms
Of the sun and welcomes us
As Harvey’s refugees.
And have we learned nothing from this—
That powerless feeling,
A leaf in the gale,
Not knowing where it will fall,
Facing the wrath of something
So much greater than the self?
And still, on the other side of this hurricane,
Months later, we point our fingers south
As a caravan of refugees arrive at the border,
Fleeing a different kind of storm
Only to find themselves in the eye of another.