Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016

Screenshot 2017-09-02 at 3.03.46 PM

City Turned to Inland Lake

in Health/Hurricanes by

it was always a trying place to live
soupy summer evenings
under hazy orange skies
jeans plastered to your thighs
tree roots cracking through sidewalk concrete
super allergies caused by toxic pollen
collisions and near misses every day
on those twelve lanes of highway
paved over prairie land

lopsided houses
from rapid-swelling soils
there’s always a door that won’t shut
unless you water your foundation
during the drier months
gumbo soils
too thick to build basements

when it rains
there is nowhere for the water to go
when it rains
finally breaking the hot heavy tension
why is it always so violent?

cocky pistol-packing roaches
swaggering through your kitchen
that’s when they aren’t in flying season
now even they cling to life
floating on a plastic plate
through your dining room

it’s not the middle of the night
lightning bolts and whistling wind
shatters of glass and falling trees
that changes your life instantaneously
but the gradual rise of water creeping in
inch by inch
that eats away at you
like the slow leaching of corroding pipes
the constant drip drip drip
gnawing at your very infrastructure
increasingly louder the longer it goes on

it’s the days and days painfully anticipating
how high the water will go
sleepless nights
your brain like cheesecloth
as rain seeps through the roof
incessant crying, jolting phone alarms
eight tornadoes yesterday fifteen tonight
a subterranean machine-like thudding
from an earth in constant turmoil

by daybreak your heavy eyelids
don’t know if its dusk or dawn
you awake with drunken fatigue
to find the crossroads flooded
raging muddy waters disobeying
submerging the stop sign
personal power outages
in the hundreds of thousands

your interior is shifting
on slow motion reel
as you helplessly watch
sofas and armchairs bob through the living room
like an apprentice’s enchanted buckets and mops
hang the pots and pans from the ceiling
place your laptop above the cabinet
save the memories
try to save the memories

mucky brown waters still rising rising
serpents, sharp objects and cesspool shit
now you feel sick
a slow dull sinking pit
in your leaky leaky gut

so much water
and none of it drinkable
your thirst
for clarity, purity
is stifling

can disinfect the piles of Legos
but the books are all soggy, bloated
that gunk will never come out
of Daddy’s silken ties
dump the rotting refrigerator contents
all that stuff from Costco’s last run
tear it down to the studs
a flooded house can never be sold

straining to breathe
your chest feels pressed
by stacks of sandbags
trapped beneath fifty-one inches
in this city turned to inland lake
there aren’t enough resources
for this millennial flood
deploy the Naval warships

you’re normally resilient
good at keeping those flood gates closed
but the dam spilled over for the first time ever
now paralyzed by your helplessness
in this time of crisis
you wish you could have been a better protector
how do you even get out, onto the roof
to wave your arms for rescue?
you left the axe, the ladder
in the garage
float the kids out on an air mattress
carry the baby over your head
don’t look the dog in the eyes
as you leave him behind

“out of calamity… chaos
you find what people are made of”
God’s love still shines
through a stranger’s smile
as he hands you a dry pair of socks
fresh bottled water

somewhere in a parallel life
it’s sunny and seventy-five degrees


Read More:
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM [Poets Reading the News]
My American Dream [Poets Reading the News]

Heather Jacobsen is a writer and photographer who moved from a flooded Houston neighborhood two years ago. 

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