Course of Nature, Course of Tears

By Joseph Hesch
I tried not to look at them, the pictures

of History’s erasure by a watery scribe
named Irene. She cleaned our broad board
of homes and lives with a red tide of rain
and bad intent, a substitute teacher
who deleted generations of life and livelihood
with her two-day lesson followed by
no one knows how many years
of weeping review.
Where the Mohawk and Hudson,
more dependable than the class-bell crocus,
signal the coming Spring
with their centuries’-old icy combat
for that one last seat in their riparian game
of musical chairs, I tried not to listen
to the roaring music.
I knew there could be no winner
and I didn’t want to hear the names of friends
who would finally lose their homes to,
of all things, a Summer torrent
of surprise and tears.

It’s those salty drops I’ll remember most,
not the gale-blown rains,
the road-ripping spatter of emboldened creeks,
the drip-drip of time waiting
for it all to end.
For many, it will never end.
For children, the nightmares
will echo like the storm’s thunder,
even after their trailer-schools move
to a new place of drowned dreams.
The debt-relieving, yet never-harvested,
bumper crops will scar memories
of farms that may never push corn
toward a sky from which their demise
was written in water, carved deeply
in new courses. These courses not taught,
but watched, waiting for something
that may never come again,
yet was never expected to come
in the first place.

(Photo at top by Wil Waldron, Albany Times Union. Photo above from The Saratogian.)

I honestly didn’t want to write a poem about Hurricane Irene. But I learned this morning that a couple of old friends lost their home in that Waterford neighborhood above. “Waterford,” what an ironic name, bespeaking a safe crossing of the river depths, for a town that annually (and temporarily) floods so many of its inhabitants from their homes. My friends’ home was lifted from its foundation and is no longer habitable. I really don’t know what to think of this poem, but I’m glad I got it out of my system. Maybe I can look at it as my way of expressing my condolences to those who lost so much in Irene, when I just had to pick up some branches. 

This poem is being linked to dVerse Poets Pub’s Open Link Night. Stop by and check out the wonderful array of poets and their works.


34 thoughts on “Course of Nature, Course of Tears

  1. i am sorry man…ugh…brings back memories of the flooding after a hurricane of my youth tore through my grammas house…finding her belongings in trees….nice texture of the substitute teacher, i like that…i am sorry for your friends though..

  2. It's so devastating when something like this comes so out of the blue. It destroys lives & livelihoods. I'm sad for your friends & hope there is help for them. Poems need to be written so we can make sense of our experiences. I'm glad you've written this one..

  3. So sorry to hear about the houses of your friends.I have heard that roaring music and seen the aftermath of summer's torrent. It is a sad sight indeed specially for the farmers who never see the harvest of their crops.Thanks for sharing this ~

  4. So sad your friends lost their home. I can't imagine the devastation.Hopefully that substitute teacher will never return!You had an amazing way with words in this. Not too much. Not too little. Getting the feeling across with mastery from your talent.

  5. Your poem is well done, expressing what it feels like to observe and experience such a thing. I just happened to be in Albany at my daughter's house that weekend. She/we were lucky, no damage at all, never even lost power. But it is such a feeling of helplessness to witness the devastation that others endure.

  6. Your poem archives for us a memory we shouldn't forget, and records the emotions and events which the people who experience them are at the moment too close to to record meaningfully, so never think that writing like this isn't important. Plus it's a fine poem in itself, though that's secondary to your feelings at the moment I'm sure. I think it's good to know that unlike the cable news shows, who move ever on to the next tragedy that sells ad time, these events are here reflected more permanently.

  7. Punch to the gut with this one Joe. In these parts, it seems every storm that blows through is going to the storm to end all storms…and then the news is about us missing it, while those hit the hardest try to heal and rebuild. To be honest, if not for you, I would have no clue as to just how hard you got it…hope you and especially your friends, can find the strength and perseverance to rebuild,and if not forget, (I doubt your ever could) forgive our Mother for her harshness.

  8. Joe, I know it's hard to evaluate your work when your care and your emotions drove it and are ever wrapped in it. However, I will say that every line is carefully and powerfully crafted employing apt metaphors for the actions of the storm and the reactions of those who were forced to witness it. Huge kudos to you, my friend!

  9. so sorry to read about your friends…your poem is poignant. This line really touched my heart "For children, the nightmareswill echo like the storm's thunder,even after their trailer-schools moveto a new place of drowned dreams. "

  10. This was so sad, and I feel so bad for the people suffering this tragedy. I know your loss and am sorry for you and your friends. But it's what drives us, we poets. And I really think poetry should be used to keep these things alive forever…. well done…

  11. Well said, Joe. I believe you've written about the subject in a poignant way. I especially like, "a substitute teacher who deleted generations of life and livelihood with her two-day lesson followed byno one knows how many years of weeping review."Such a great choice of comparison. This is a tough one for so many, and after the news coverage fades, it's too easy to forget about the long-term affect these disasters have. There have been too many as of late 😦

  12. Joe, sorry you had to endure this. Been to Albany numerous times and it's a good place, good people. Not that this should happen anywhere, but when, for me, being only 5 hours away, in the same state, in a place I've been too numerous times, it crashes the reality home hard. I've spoken to a number of the people and not one was unaffected. Another friend of mine from Rochester has to go there to assist, and that alone tells the story for me, as I know the other cases he had to travel, never a good scene. The pictures really drive it home, but you're words bring a reflection impossible to deny. The part about the children and how a couple days can/will bear residuals over time- really made me stop to think. Again, prayers to you and all in the area and thanks for sharing this to us in verse.

  13. I am so sorry about your friends…It's sad. During hurricane Wilma, a tree fell on our roof. My son and I were in the room that it fell on at the time. We suffered extensive damage but we were thankful that it wasn't worse. I hope that your friends recover soon…sorry.

  14. My heart breaks for your friends, and so too, for my birth state of Vermont. Too much destruction, the reality being that so much will never again be the same. I have seen many photos of the devastation posted. The tears for all that was lost finally came with your poem. Thank you for sharing this.

  15. I am really sorry to hear about your friends' affected by Irene, Joe… I feel thankful to have been spared of her wrath.. whew!And yes, sometimes, even when we don't want to, the best way to express our sentiment comes via our writings.. like this poem! Warm hugs to you and your friends from me…

  16. Good narrative to the effects of something like this Joe. I think you served the moment well by capturing it as you have with this. Its hard to see loss like this. ~ Rose

  17. I am sorry to hear of the tragedy. Writing is therapuetic for me and you, too it seems. I am glad you wrote it and put it out there for us. Many blessings, to your and your loved ones, Joe.

  18. It is always best to get things out…events shape and mold us..whether first hand or second – we are never that far aways from the events that change lives everyday – we all have them – that is one reason we write…bkm

  19. "It’s those salty drops I’ll remember most,not the gale-blown rains,the road-ripping spatter of emboldened creeks,the drip-drip of time waitingfor it all to end."Loved these lines. Your piece so personal as if you'd been there.

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