A mother can do nothing
to stop a ten-foot wave.
She cannot get to Brooklyn
fast enough. In a stalled car,
on a battered island, she can't
get to promised higher ground
because of the water.
The water comes. The water,
it comes and comes and comes,
the water, always comes, pulling.
It tugs, taking sons from her.
What is this woman's love
against a strong storm's surge
becomes a story that holds
spellbound a room on Capitol Hill.
Two years and four, they were,
counting for more than the seconds
the unhanding took, water wanting
what a mother could not not let go.
On Father Capodanno Boulevard
the van, abandoned, held; a tree
meant water didn't take it.
Today, a single white coffin contains.
Far away, in Ireland, another island,
grandparents in the town of Portnoo,
in County Donegal, retain no words
to explain boys in a wooded marsh,
a father on duty at the time, a mother
reaching, even now, for higher ground.
© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas
This poem is inspired by the deaths of two brothers, ages 2 and 4, on Staten Island during Hurricane Sandy. News stories about the children include the following:
Raymond Hernandez, "Teary-Eyed, Gillibrand Tells Senators of 2 Boy's Deaths in Storms", City Room Blog, The New York Times, November 29, 2012
Ken Paulsen, "Funeral for 2 Staten Island Brothers, Victims of Hurricane Sandy", Staten Island Advance, November 9, 2012
Julia Papa, "Funeral Friday for 2 Brothers Swept Away During Sandy Surge on Staten Island", CBS New York, November 9, 2012