AFTER THE HURRICANE
Reggie, 12McClellanville SC, 1989
They told us all to go to Lincoln High
but we should have knowed not to: that’s low ground
there. There was hundreds in the cafeteria
when the water came in. Water come right over
the little children and the grown-ups
was screaming. Everybody got up on the stage
but even there the water was chest-high on me
and still coming, when I don’t know who it was
but he got the notion quick to get up into the rafters,
and we hung there, all of us together
until the water come back down. It’s a miracle
we didn’t drown like that dog who floated in
through the busted window in the pitch-black dark:
the wind done all his howling for him.
My father got a chair and knocked out the roof
and we climbed up there. When the wind died
we could hear the horns of all them cars
and see their headlights all jumbled up
like some big traffic jam.
When salt water hit them wires
it drove them crazy. Seems like
everything was touched. What was down
is up and what was up is down.
Half the things we had was buried in the mud,
and two caskets floated up out of the ground.
Everything is changed:
old Brother Gathers who’s been an invalid for years
got up out of his bed and run upstairs
when the water first come in.
His house was lifted up and landed
sideways to the road. He says
he kind of likes it, with this new view.
He says he might just as well leave it be.
I don’t get around much, with these feet;
I got sugar and the high blood. See,
they done took two of these toes and I be lucky
it weren’t more. I stay here with William,
he’s my common law. We been together
long enough to satisfy God. William,
he and me stay. He walk and pray,
he walk and pray.
I lose my two pecan trees
which my first husband
give to me when they was just
little old things. That’s what got me
shook up the most, them two trees down
after all the years they’d growed.
God ain’t pleased with the way
some people been doing.
Maybe He did this to straighten them out.
It might work on some,
get them closer together,
them that was too far apart.
—from Tar River Poetry 39.2 (Spring 2000). Lee Robinson's poetry collections are Creed and Hearsay, which won the 2004 Poets Out Loud Prize. She is also a novelist: Gateway was published by Houghton Mifflin, and her Lawyer for the Dog is forthcoming from St Martin's Press in 2015.