One Disaster within Another*
By G. Davies Jandrey
This one’s called Superstorm Sandy. NOAA’s Jim Cisco called it Frankenstorm –
A monster cobbled out of a wailing blow,
nailing rain, 13-foot sea surge,
Blew through the Caribbean doglegged west,
busted up Barrier Islands, delicate as strands of pearls,
buried $3000 barbecue grills.
Gobsocked, Seaside Heights, Wildwood, Atlantic City.
A kiddy car from a boardwalk ride
washed ten miles north on the tide
before it stalled in the sand.
Fifty feet of famous boardwalk
Little Egg Harbor – Amid foundered pleasure craft
a couple kayaks down Neptune Street, glides past Saltaire.
New Jersey – Halloween postponed by mandate.
Dazed and inundated Philly, Baltimore, Bean Town.
Red Cross shelters from Maryland to Maine,
Pennsylvania, Indiana, all open for business.
West Virginia – snow three feet deep
topple trees in full leaf, power lines,
Police guard the mansions of mega-millionaires.
“Is this Mantoloking?” a guy asks a cop.
“It was,” he says. “Right over there.
Buffeted on three sides by full-moon-wind-blown tides –
Ground Zero – under floodlight’s white glare,
water like Niagara Falls gushes down the gaping maw.
Stock market, subways, politics all waterlogged, stalled
with Election Day’s just one week away.
A fleet of yellow cabs is door handle deep.
Eight million still in the dark,
no gas, no way out.
One-hundred-six known dead
and the toll rises as water recedes,
leaving in its wake diesel stench, broken lives,
Floodwater tears two Staten Island tots from a mother’s arms,
then spills them like dross on the mud-matted marsh.
One man, impatient with his emergency
hits the wall, blows up an air mattress,
floats to City Hall.
He wants to underscore the need to rush.
The fridge is defrosting.
His high rise toilets won’t flush.
Point Pleasant Beach –
Bill Goldberg’s response to the ruin
a gruff unprintable,
while Dennis Cusci has questions:
“What to do first?
Where to put the stuff?”
Stacy West sits on a cot in a shelter,
what’s left of her stuff arrayed around her.
She has a question too.
“That woman caught out in the storm,
what, in God’s name, was she doing there?”
She flicks a tear.
“Nothing to protect her babies from harm,
nothing but her own black arms?
Looking for higher ground, I guess.”
Stacy shakes her head.
“Sweet Lord, what a mess –
and rich folk whine ‘bout their beachfront house.
They got a back-up house in the city,
don’t you know? And that Sub-zero
keeps those back-up steaks froze.”
She chuckles. “Better eat up that back-up gelato,
back-up crab cakes, frozen mango.
She looks around the room,
eyes filling, then spilling.
“Folks like me ain’t got no back-ups.”
Runs a hand cross her jaw.
“Mother from Staten Island,
she sure ain’t got no back-ups.”
Stacy West holds her own hand,
twists her wedding band.
*As reported by the New York Times and The Associated Press November 2012