Irene, Part Four

September 16th, 2011

In Waterbury, After Irene


I saw what flickered in the young mother’s face –
she was not going to cry, at least not right away –
amid a cluster of kids head-droopingly bored but
too anxious to wander and anyway forbidden.
The former volunteer fireman pleaded with her
not to let the work crew back in her basement
until fans had been placed to dispel the fumes.
Like me, he’d just walked by, looking to help.
A teenage crew member said to me, “But oil
don’t burn.”  I said, “You drop a match in a bucket
of oil and it’ll go out.  It’s fumes that burn.
You don’t want to come out of there in flames.”
They’d been hacking up shelving and hauling it out,
having fun with sawzalls.  I took the pieces and
wheelbarrowed them over to the dumpster, dull
green plank chunks dusted with golden sawdust
flecks that had stuck in the flood’s residual slime.


At a house not far from there, I saw a man
attack with vicious blows of a framing hammer the
underlayment in what had been his kitchen.
We’d scraped loose the vinyl tiles, tossed them
into heavy duty plastic bags, and
humped them out to the dumpster, past the mound of
grey, crumbled drywall, pink fluffs of
fiberglass, dismantled cabinets, shards of
wainscoting taking up the whole front yard and
growing sodden there. Whoever had tacked that
plywood down, had not spared the nails.  Our little
prybars and catspaws groaned it up slowly.  It bent,
its stiffness soaked away, without the strength to
overcome the flooring boards’ swollen grip.
Wordlessly, he picked up the claw and went at it,
splintering, splitting, smashing, swift and ferocious.
I stood back.  His father said, “I told the
builder, build it like you were going to live here.”


I saw the house’s innards, the hues of road kill,
grey and pink and brown on the lawn in the rain.
We loaded a plastic tub and the working wheelbarrow
handful by leather-gloved handful, globs of wallboard
decomposing to gypsum and paper, spears of
lath and molding spiked with nails, drawer parts,
shelving paper checkered blue and white,
clots of insulation the color of sunsets.
Trudging back and forth a couple of hours,
having reduced the pile perhaps by half,
we’d paused to catch our breath when someone vaguely
known to the family drove up in his bright blue
bucket loader.  Soon he’d scooped the yard clear.
No one regretted our efforts, though they’d been useless.
A few blades of grass streaked the mud,
all lying in one direction, like a comb-over.
“I think you’re going to have to reseed,” I said.

This entry was posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011 at 11:16 pm and is filed under Current events, Irene, Places, Poems. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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