For me, it starts in my back yard, standing on the patio slab
sniffing the air for a monster.
The winds pick up and puff now and then, dry,
loose clouds, and then it comes: the first taste
of the gulf, some seventy miles away.
A scent of vacation, of being on the beach,
maybe just after a rain that puts a sheen on palms,
brings the grackles out to hunt in the grasses.
Earlier, it is only colorful swirls on the radar maps
and prophecies of doom and untold calamity
that has no face except the last same storm
that happened here long ago, or there, far away.
Then rains. Easy, gentle rains, pitter-patter off and on for hours
before pushing up the pace, picking up the pelt till you
see it run down the drive way, collect along the curbs.
You become look out for two kinds of rise, local flooding
where the drains can’t handle the down pour or the marathon
and backs up into the streets to look up into your yards,
lick its lips at your doorways.
The other is saturation, which will come from the rivers,
the lake, if really bad.
We don’t have to worry about the surge itself, seventy miles away,
except for the flood of evacuees who will come like a cross
between lemmings and locust, buying all the gas, the bread,
blocking the highways for all the high ground late comers
when they finally get the greenlight to get out as well.
More than a week after the storm has left the area
another five thousand residents are ordered out, and forced out,
losing both power and water to make up their minds
and save the first responders who may drown in mid rescue
or simply just not come at all.
I plan for the ridiculous worst case scenario now so far away.
If we move to high ground, it will be up the stairs.
We’ll have to remember to take ax and saw to cut through the roof
should we have to go higher, through the attic, and onto the shingles.
Our roof is too steep to pitch a tent on as others have done.
But I do not think to include a sheet, as later advised, as signal
that people are still inside.
Mark Kessinger was born in Huntington WV, attended college at Cleveland state, lived in Oklahoma City and now resides in Houston TX.
Author of The Exploded View, published by Cleveland State Press.