Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Storm

—Poem by Michael H. Brownstein, Jefferson City, MO

            (for Todd and his store, TNT)

Is this a TNT moment,
a stick of dynamite to tear down the entire thing too close to the river,
a rambling set of shacks and one large water-logged warehouse?

It’s near New Year’s,
too close to last Christmas,
and he tells us he will be opened on the holiday, maybe.

We might pilgrimage to his front door
over the large expanse of bridge, a wide highway,
then a right turn onto a smaller blacktop road leading to the airport.

We will not be seeking the planes.
We have no need for helicopters.
We will enter his establishment of everything but TNT.

And we will stay awhile.
It is never too cool inside or too hot.
Water drips from tarps and gutter holes.

Pathways go from wood to nails to screws—a hundred kinds of screws—
a hundred kinds of nails—a hand-built model of a ship rigged in string
and everywhere books for sale by the pound.

Go in with nothing and come out with something.
Enter at your own risk.
Nothing costs so much you cannot afford to purchase it here.

So it gets on into the late afternoon,
the sun crowded out by evening clouds and a bird or two,
the surprise of dynamite is, it is so loud.


                 (for Todd)

In the spring, the rains came and did not come,
but the melting snow from up north and thunderstorms
jammed into the narrow straits of the Missouri
eating its land on either side, slipping over levees,
an appetite so great it took over so much—
and right before the tornado of 2019 hit my town,
the Missouri threw off every caution it had,
entered TNT one sunny afternoon—we were there—
and the waters slipped in and through, crossed
the nearby road, flooded the airport on the other side,
and as police began blocking streets, we scattered
into cars to cross the only way out to safety. Todd,
forced to leave, locked his fence and followed.

When he came back, when the street was partially opened,
when the blockades were lifted so a survey of damage
could be completed, we called him. I'm on my kayak,
he told us, inside the store. We asked if he needed help.
No, he said, don't come. The stench is unforgiving,
my fence is down and broken, there is still a current.
A few days later we came anyway, surveyed what was left,
the fence on the ground, his parking lot gut-shot and potholed,
but the water was down, his kayak no longer floating,
and he had help lifting the destroyed to a place of debris,
gathering undamaged items—almost everything had damage—
to the safety of shelving. Here, he said, you need a mask,
and be careful, he said, some of the rooms are haunted.
Water moccasins and other breathing things. I have not
been brave enough to chase them away. We bought
tile from him. He told us, I'm OK for now, but I'll let you know
when I'm not, and we told him, We're here. Let us know what
needs to be done. The city came by then, dumping gravel
on the other side of the street where the roadway
had washed away, where the grass grew mud brown, where
a huge water moccasin rose up, looked our way and dived.


Our thanks to Michael Brownstein as he continues to write to us about the tornado that came through his town of Jefferson City, Missouri, just before midnight on May 23. He writes, "...the tornado has passed, we're still cleaning up. In the end there were two fatalities. The flood from the Missouri River hit us a week before the tornado and became really bad over the next two weeks. Now—almost a month later—the water is receding, but quite a lot of the other side of the river really smells badly. Todd is a friend who owns TNT, a warehouse that was under water. Water moccasins are in his back rooms and all over his outdoor shelters.

“I was by there yesterday to see how I could help out, but I didn't bring a mask or gloves or even boots, so I was fairly useless. Anyway here's a poem I wrote 'way before the flood for him—he has not seen it yet.”

Since his first poem was written before the storm, I asked Michael to write about the water moccasins and damage to TNT, so that’s Part II—in other words, a commission about all this intense imagery! (Thanks, Michael. It’s awesome!) And we on this side of the States will be thinking about you and your family (and Todd!) in the weeks ahead.

—Medusa, celebrating the weathering of the storm

 Water Moccasin, Anonymous Photo

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