Storm Poems

Rare Occasion
for Irene

rare occasion-- to do dishes by candelight
to write letters by hand
calculate how much ice

     needed for how much food
what to give up, throw out
let go

rare occasion to notice
how often I flick on
the light, open the fridge
to notice who I call for help
feel gratitude for good neighbors

rare occasion to notice neighbors
workers, ignoring rain
clearing storm drains, fixing
posts, connecting lines

this loving labor
so often overlooked.
let’s notice when rare occasions

become not so rare

short, distinctive names
now foretell cyclonic disturbance
instead of good nights of Irene,
Katrina and the Waves,
Rita love goddess...

not so rare occasion, to bless
the survivors, to hope
we hear the call to turn
the tides.

--August 2011



Sandy* was the kid who ate paste
in second grade. And Donna* was
my best high school friend
who had a canopy bed and
learned me the ways of a middle class,
Midwestern, Neil Diamond-adoring teen.
Sandy was the innocent ignorance of teen years. 

Sandy is the color of corn
we grow to feed the endless thirst for fuel,
the texture of the room where I listen
and learn new names--
Emiliania huxleyi*, who caused a
coccolithaphore* bloom in 1997,

and blooms every year since.
Arctic Oscillation, often confused
with the North Atlantic Oscillation--
no difference really, in how their troughs

force the jet stream further north or
whether they make more snow for us
to shovel in Rhode Island this winter.

Poets wail, if only Dr. Scientist could
hear the pause
between the music of the spheres and that silence
left by collapsing
bee hives, a sixth mass
extinction underway. Scientists muse
if only the poet would look at the calcite
armor of Emiliania huxleyi, the vast
accumulations of calcareous oozes
and chalks at the bottom of the sea,
the sheddings that made Dover’s cliffs white

If only we could hear what the other
hears, know what the other knows,
we might leave that liquid sun alone
to stew another ten thousands years in the sands,
and Sandy might have a chance to
be your granddaughter’s name.

October 31, 2012

* Hurricane Sandy , (November 2012) may not have been caused by climate change, but climate change intensifies the degree of these “frankenstorms.”
* Hurricane Donna (September 1960) is the only hurricane of record to produce hurricane-force winds in Florida, the Mid-Atlantic states, and New England.
* Emiliania Huxleyi (E-hux) is a microscopically tiny, photosynthesizing phytoplankton, one of 5000 that live in the upper layer of the ocean. Phytoplankton are one of the primary forces that regulate our planetary climate. E-hux is the most abundant of coccolithophores, phytoplankton that armour themselves with calcium carbonate platelets (coccoliths). Climate change is causing ocean to acidify, which has negatively impacted the ability of E-hux to produce their beautiful platelets. Recent research is hopeful, though, demonstrating the ability of E-hux to adapt to the changing ph of the ocean.

For Family in Yolanda's Wake
A mind might lag
behind, in the time
between gaze and yawn,
before the eye catches
the drizzling rain turning to white
flakes, falling sideways with
yellow maple leaves, swirling, looking for
where they belong. Where do we--
the nomadic, the itinerant,
the wandering dispossessed—belong?
Not here in this sliver of hill
between voluminous mansions and
falling down triple-deckers.

A body might turn
slack in mounds of cushions,
in the yawn between eyes and screen,
reflections of screens broadcasting torrents,
waves that churn up thousands of sleeping
bodies, children and brothers and mothers and
dogs, far from the wide Sargasso Sea. Between
the islands where you and I were born, warm
currents swirl in a different sea,
earth plates collide, typhoons brew, while scowling
tycoons count dollars, eyelids squint at the fine
print. Who can read the signs? Who remembers
rhymes foretelling this day?
Not us silver-haired workers, schemers,
soldiers, slick ones oiling
the well-oiled machine.

Who among us will open
her chapped lips and cry-- “Not here, not us”? We
will not turn away or grow slack in the eye
of the storm; we hold a place for you.