I was at my in-laws home in Rock Hall, Maryland, on the Chesapeake Bay when Katrina roared through the Gulf Coast. I wrote the first draft of what was ultimately to become this poem there.
I remember being glued to the TV, horrified by the destruction and the loss of life. And ironically, the weather on the Chesapeake at that time was utterly calm, with a run of lovely, still, sunny days to end our summer holiday.
Isabel was the hurricane that had extracted its vengeance on the Delmarva peninsula a few years earlier. It destroyed my in-law's home and many others besides. Each hurricane season, we watch the storms churn in the Atlantic and pray that none make landfall.
It doesn't matter what we hope for. Those who make their living on the water or who live beside it know that water always wins.
After the Levee is Breached
Only the lightest puff of air stirs
pennants along the dock. Telltales hang
from luffing sails. In the stillness, bees
stagger between the open throats of thirsty
orchids. When wind and full moon forced
the bay to rise, it scoured the eastern shore.
This time, the great tidal surge gathers
elsewhere. Camera crews rush to film
other places more prosperous, newly drowned.
Watermen haul their catch by hand, chant
a guilty mantra--Hugo, Andrew, Isabel;
new storms spin elsewhere. Tonight a front
gathers force; it rends high, thin clouds.
Stars pour through the rift like water.
--Lisa Janice Cohen, 2005