Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Staten Island Elegy (Poem)

Staten Island Elegy

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
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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

23 comments:

Semaphore said...

Maureen this is a poem I wish I'd written. You did it, you captured it, you captured it all.

AJ Walker said...

So amazing, so beautiful, so wonderfully presented. Just wow, really loved this one.

Kim Nelson said...

You carried this story into my heart in a way no newscast has done. Oh! The heart breaks. Masterful, Maureen. Masterful.

Claudia said...

this is very sensitively written maureen...brought me to tears..

Nicole Sullivan said...

that is absolutely brilliant. touching and with such little use of words. you really get so much emotion in here, really give us the feeling of the tragedy.

Brian Miller said...

ugh...its hard....the death of children is so sad...and i guess the sad truth as well is that we as parents can not protect them from everything...

rumoursofrhyme said...

Maureen, the spareness of your words really adds to the emptiness that the loss of children must leave in a family's hearts. This is what poetry is supposed to be about.

Rene Foran said...

Maureen, the sorrow in your poem is bottomless

Marbles in My Pocket said...

Wow. This put a lump in my throat and a fist around my heart. A sad tale, told too well. Excellent write.

mrs mediocrity said...

I remember hearing this story when it happened, your words are a fine tribute to the pain that mother must have felt.

nance said...

after this last week of feeling the tug and lift of waves...i can easily imagine not being able to hold on.

Kamana said...

youve captured sorrow very beautifully here

Laura said...

Maureen you express this expansive sorrow with deep compassion.

Mark Kerstetter said...

Few things, we tend to think, are stronger than a mother's love. The final image of the mother still reaching (forever reaching) will haunt me.

Beth Winter said...

*sorrow* beautifully expressed

Tracie Skarbo said...

This made me cry...

Laurie Kolp said...

So many sad stories from Sandy. This one especially.

Beachanny said...

Such an eloquent elegy. It is hauntingly beautiful. Thank you!

Kelvin S.M. said...

...your poem flows softly and smoothly for anyone not easily love... yet filled of bitter memories... excellent... smiles...

S. Etole said...

So well written ... the feelings tangible.

Laura Boggess said...

Feeling that deep ache here. Just broken. Broken. The hard work of grief--the hard work of a mother...who can bear this burden?

Lesley-Anne Evans said...

A poignant and careful write, deep with understanding. Well done.

Luke Prater said...

Maureen this is a strong one. The emotion is authentic, powerfully-planted and transcends the twee or mawkish. Writing on tragedy can so easily go there. Instead, you pull. With words, with phrases, with a tightly-structured free verse that boasts just the right amount of aural device. Bravo.