The Great Storm

Today, as my family and friends fled the Texas Gulf Coast just ahead of Hurricane Ike, I found myself thinking of this storm and of this piece I wrote a few months ago to commemorate it.

I also have it posted on a different webpage with photos of the actual storm: The Great Storm.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On September 8, 1900, The Gulf of Mexico joined the waters of Galveston Bay to completely cover the island and destroy the Texas coastal city of Galveston. This hurricane would become the greatest natural disaster, by number of deaths, in United States history: 8,000 by accepted figures, perhaps as many as 12,000. Of that total, 6,000 perished in Galveston alone. The tragedy killed more Americans than any other natural disaster, indeed, more than the legendary Johnstown Flood, the San Francisco Earthquake, the 1938 New England Hurricane and the Great Chicago Fire combined.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Beyond
the rusted
wrought-iron gate,
white tablets
                     stand
in limestone casts
a silent
             cromlech
to that
          1900 
                  Night

Night of
darkness
                   darkest
darkness

Night
pierced only 
by phosphorous bolts
hurled to Earth
by the
             nameless
storm

Phosphorous
                     flash 
illuminating the
                         flight
of tin
roofs made
                  guilliotines
for the 
           flailing 
horses
they once
               sheltered

Phosphorous
                    flash
illuminating the
                         flight
of orphans
                  ninety
tied to trees

Trees
whose roots
could not
               hold
Trees
whose branches
could not
               endure
the bedsheet
                    ropes
and cast
their 
       precious
cargo
to the
          wind
on the
          sea

Night of
noise
            noisome
noise

Ten thousand
                      demons
screaming 
in the
         dark
swallowing the
cries for
             Mother
             Help
             Mercy

Ten thousand
                      demons
engulfing 
the solid
              scream
of the
          one hundred
Orphans

Only the
              bell
The Ursuline Convent
                                  bell
rang
       constant
through the
                   night

Above the 
                demon
screams
carillon 
            carrying
voices 
        of nuns
        of Sisters
a hymn
a prayer
a plea
          a lullabye
for the
           dying
“Queen of the Waves
Look forth across the ocean”

But the
             Queen
did not
            look
not until the
                    passing
of the 
          night
that
       dark
       noisome
night

And in the
light of
            day
She
      watched
She 
       saw
the few
            living 
women 
children
leave the 
               ruined
island
Leave the
               New York
of the Gulf

Leave it 
to the
          Men
fifteen hundred
                        Men
left to
clear the
              Six 
              Eight
              Ten
 Thousand
                   Dead

She
       watched
She 
        saw
Black men
first generation
                              Freemen
forced at
                  White
                  Winchester 
gunpoint
to load
              drays
To make 
              processions
To fill
            barges
Three
            barges
with
The Dead
the endless
                 Dead

She
        watched
She
       saw
The barges
                 drift
Atop the
              quiet
Bay
until the
             Men
Black men
under
             White 
Winchester point
lovingly
             lowered
The Dead
the weighted
                    Dead
into the
                 Sea

She
       watched
She
      saw
The Dead
               return
with the
             Sun
afloat
        awash
The Dead
               riding
the tops
of the
low-crested
                   waves
to litter
the splintered
                      Shore
The Dead
               refusing
to be
        drowned
again

She 
       watched
She
      saw
through a
                Sky
thick with
the scent of
                   camphor
thick with 
the smell of
                   rotting
                   flesh 
       (Human)
       (Animal)
Thick with
the mist of
                  Phenol
Thick with
the dust of
                  Lime

She
       watched
She 
      saw
The Men
The
        fifteen hundred
Men
        Black
        White
luxury of
               prejudice
Gone
           Fifteen hundred
Men
armed only
with the
             drunkenness
of whiskey
the 
      drunkeness
of grief
shielded only
by the
sharp scented
                      bags
hung ’round 
the neck
              powerless
amulets
against the
                 stench
of their 
            rotting
brethren

She
       watched
She
       saw
The Men
                  White
                  Black
pry open
             bloated
mouths
            praying
teeth might tell
                         Father
                         Mother
                         Sister
                         Brother
                                   Child
And when
teeth
did not
            speak

She
       watched
She
        saw
The Men
              Black
              White
stack the
sea-borne
                corpses
and set
            ablaze
Friends
Lovers
              Family

The peculiar
                   scent 
Of burning 
                 flesh
familiar 
in the 
         air
of another
                Night

© S. Rogers 2008

3 thoughts on “The Great Storm

  1. Jeffrey says:

    This was very intense and moving Stephanie and a very powerful piece of writing.

    You and your loved ones, my loved ones, and everyone else are in my prayers and thoughts today.

    I would also like to thank you for your comments on my post about Super Cooties, too!

    I would also like your opinion on something–which blog do you like better–the Blogger one, or my one at WordPress http://www.jeffreyalanmiller.wordpress.com

    Kimberley prefers the WordPress one–and I do, too as far as keeping track of comments and it is easier to navigate. Of course, I am keeping the Blogger one hoping that more people will click on those Google Ads! Lol!

    Please visit my WordPress blog and let me know which one you like best.

    In the meantime, please take very good care of yourself my friend and your Mom, too.

  2. catgem says:

    thank you, jeffrey

    I left you word on your WordPress blog — it’s the one i prefer

    we’re all ok here — all family safe and accounted for, so we’re much luckier than many

    talk to you soon, my dear friend 🙂

  3. Jeffrey says:

    Good Evening Stephanie,

    How are you this evening my dear friend? I hope all is well with you and your loved ones.

    Thanks for your comments on my post today; I will have some other posts up later today. Will also try to figure out this Google Docs stuff. Have to figure out how to post it for the group, not for each person.

    Take care my dear friend…

Thank you for letting me know you were here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s