I don’t have any poems about flooding to comemmorate our recent miseries, but twelve years ago I wrote the following about a much more characteristically Vermontish natural disaster. Its subtitle was “the day they impeached the President and bombs fell on Baghdad”:
A white accretion outlining their upsides
now defines grey tree limbs, which had stood
indistinct against a grey sky. The bark
seems darkest at the snow line, shading in lighter
away from it, and where this morning they blended
into softly smudged horizons now they cut
each other with a charcoal stripe and blank
stutter where they cross, a bewildering
etched jumble replacing December’s
former monotonous wash.
I am cast back to January last. Then,
something awful happened, a difference of a
few degrees from today’s gentle refinement
of tiny crystals layered like feathers, like
cotton ribbons on the branches, made
instead clear, ever thickening sheaths
from drizzle falling constantly day on day,
glazing the woods and glazing the glaze,
gloving twigs in inch thick thumbs, a
heavy colorless skin laid over everything
and nothing within it could be seen.
Crack! A maple cleaved down the middle.
Branches began snapping. Trunks split.
Ice fell through the laden crowns, knocking
other ice loose, as if a tray of glass smashed
to the ground, and then, thud, the body that had
carried it. Throughout the nights the thicket
back of our house shook as if from gunshots,
and in the dim and watery mornings, more
boles stood stripped and lopped, stark, unfringed,
or bowed, too weak to resist, their elasticity
almost exhausted, poplars bent double,
birches that would remain humped as the
backs of old men for the rest of their
curtailed lives. Saplings sprang straight,
tinkling upright, suddenly tall among elders
reduced as if by an artillery barrage.
Several times daily, amid that great sadness
like friends passing, we ventured out to
clear a passage through the street’s debris.
Emergency vehicles might need it. Ankle deep
shards of ice the size and shape of packing peanuts
crisply crunched at each step, and at each
step we looked up over our shoulders, and
meeting in the middle of the road to haul
bits of branchy tangle grown unwieldy, weighty
as if under some other, more giant gravity,
we warned each other of widow makers.
Within the drizzle’s unceasing sibilance,
we labored and chatted in hushed, excited tones.
Then, nothing left to clear, we retreated
almost reluctantly to our separate, slowly
chilling, powerless dwellings, to the day’s
grey, even light seeping even indoors.