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Egrets stalk my inbox, cautious
twigs skirting a Mito lake,
blinding-white, startled-eyed
kin of those I visit on the Pontchartrain.
An unexpected Café du Monde in Ishioka beckons,
beignets in Japan, a sweet link.
Great, little and “Don’t forget about the intermediate,” my son writes.

An alien camera transmits
a Minamisoma husband gripping a floating roof,
wife swept away, house underneath
missing, carrying me

back to a New Orleans grandfather.
His unmoored home churns down the street,
relatives atop.
Winds lunge. Gouging tons of breached water
shred their vessel, jam it against a more seaworthy neighbor. On that tighter roof
a granddaughter, three years old,
slips
(unreachable heart)
Swirls
(disappearing center)
Sinks

Core-stricken, the grandfather remains,
saves her sisters,
a four-year-old
tumbling from the same roof, dogpaddling to safety,
a two-year old, diaper washed away,
hunkering on the peak, quaking in mute
incomprehension. Unseen by anyone, the family portrait
haunts me, years gone.
How long revisiting Mr. Green,

and Mr. Shinkawa?
Mammoth wave engulfs,
draws back,
widows, repeats. Unforgiving

Nature, we accept.
The faceless they, who see no faces,
stretch for eddying
dollars or yen, buy time,

amount to the same thing:
levees breaking, power plants burning.
Helicopters
drop
sandbags into canal water,
seawater onto nuclear fire.
Playground sand streams between a child’s fingers, gusts scatter.
Dragooning teakettle radiates steam,

not to be kept, or repossessed.
Egrets here, egrets there,

Great, little,
and don’t forget intermediate

 


Teresa Tumminello Brader was born in New Orleans and lives in the area still, not far from a levee that is currently being strengthened. Her short stories are online and in print, most recently in Coming Home: A 2010 Main Street Rag Short Fiction Anthology. Her latest poem appears in All Rights Reserved, but her favorite one is in Halfway Down the Stairs.

© 2011, Teresa Tumminello Brader

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