You told me that, as a child,
you saw from the rocks
Japanese planes as they hummed low
to the ocean’s fitful slosh—
that one of the pilots
even looked at you, smiled and waved.
That you had thought nothing of the bombs
and even waved back.
Later, because you looked
more Japanese than American,
your family was taken
to an internment camp until
after the war when, even then,
the U.S. would not claim you.
But you pried those arms back open
when you married a soldier—
and I remember how you compared
using this man to how
your father used your mother
when he ordered her by mail.
You always saw no wrong in it,
as others might around you.
To you, ownership like that
never changed the meaning of love,
just its definition.
But that was how you were:
unwavering in your beliefs.
You saw the other side
by traveling the world, every continent.
An 81-year-old who could climb
the mountain of Pietrelcina
faster than I could at 17,
you told me how you had loved
the penguins of Antarctica, the Wall of China,
and the dust that moved with Egyptian wind.
How they reminded you of yourself.
I thought someone who lived like you
could go on doing so forever,
but that day a car hooked you from wisdom
to tubes of beeping machinery,
I realized that, perhaps,
some god had only allotted you
those 90 years, and that you, nobly greedy,
had overfilled them,
a spill that leaves a high water mark on me.
When the Flood Comes
Retreat to rooftops, to pine tree limbs.
Because where are the mountains
when you need them?
All this rising. All these rising things.
What makes a flood poetic?
Is it the mud, the brown ring that notes
how the water rained down
a different perspective on our lives?
Or, perhaps, the winnowing trees
under the current, as it takes with it
what it wills, and nothing says no?
There are barns emptied of livestock.
There are streets invisible.
There are people flagging their arms
to anyone that will look
or listen to their shouting.
Their eyes pointing down the list
of what's happened. What's on a hinge
between the living and stagnant.
All things deteriorate,
but a flood makes it all so clear,
within such murk, just how
it can all come apart.
There are no frames here. No seams.
No fences. Best chance at anything
to play the role of ‘barricade’
is the mound of roughage
where it all collects after the water
has moved on to other places.