The Reservoir Series

1: How it happens & happens so quickly

Because someone took an economist’s advice. Because someone drew up the plans. Because someone called it legal. & someone hired the engineers. Someone revised the plans. Someone invoked eminent domain.

Some people packed up & left. Some people had money in their pockets & somewhere to go.

Someone posted notices. Someone planned a party. Someone set up the lights, hired bands. Someone put up a PA on the hill. We came out of the basements. We had to come up when they broadcast the warning. We came out of the basement at dusk. Someone threw the switch. Some people came to look.

You need a wrench for this.
You need to expect nothing can be saved. Someone said, Nothing can be saved! Someone said, Sink it!

Someone covered the drains all up. Someone opened a fire hydrant.
You need a wrench for this.
Who can afford a wrench?
Who can afford a wrench, living in this town.

The basements went first. Someone took offense how it always happens foundation up.

I don’t know this town anymore.
Didn’t used to look like this.

Someone said, It isn’t home anymore. Someone said, I’ve never been here before. Someone said, You never will again – it’s not on any map anymore.

Someone drank whiskey and sang a wet song. Someone laughed as the tide was born and the drowning courthouse left a wake. Someone cried but didn’t dry his face.

Noey took a rowboat out to a rooftop. Something hollow met him on the surface. Noey climbed a fourth floor balcony & waved the fiddle over his head.

Someone threw a wrench. It sank to the bottom with a wail like drought, sank down & down four storeys. Someone said something & I missed it.

& the water found its own level then.

2: Afterward

These drowned places
These flooded cities
I ask, who plays piano in a cellar full of water?
The same response every time:

                          Don’t be crass –
                          there are whole ragtime bands that wait just for such an occasion,
                          to welcome the dead, to honor all the things they forgot to write down.
                          You don’t get to question the way the universe sounds.

                          It’s not your business, it’s mine.

The angel sends me away again, turns back to the damp sheet music, the piano & the snails.

Happens every time.

& there on the weathervane, a chorus of crows to coax the breeze
The mirrored lake which midwifes a whisper
And the sofa brought creekside in a fit of desperation

Once we were small
Pollywogs still, breathing the pond in, no land legs
Someone put a Y on the end of our names because they loved us
Noey, Joey, Shanny, Janie, Cassie, Marty, Gabby
And so like this we learned to walk
                                                               to take in the air & shout
                                                               to wrap fingers around the neck of a violin & sigh
We came to the dry land like we were meant to walk it.

3: Regret

It’s not supposed to happen this way
The water should only come up to our knees & then have the decency to recede
We should, at the very least, be able to grow rice in it for a few seasons & then
be done with all the mosquitoes
Plague wasn’t even on the radar, we never saw it coming
(not even those who swear on threes)

Our homes on the bottom
Wallpaper faded, swelling to flap like white flags
come home come home come home