Edgar + Irene

On August 28, 2011, a hurricane came barreling up the East Coast headed straight for New York City. My first experience with a water-based tornado and living in a borough of the Big Apple, I was right in its path. As I waited for the pelting rains and the vicious winds to come knocking at my door, the minutes turned into hours and the hours turned into a long night filled with twitter feeds and facebook updates. Musing on Edgar Allan Poe’s over-emphasis of terror as illustrated in his epic poem, The Raven, I drew a parallel to my experience with the overblown tropical storm.
I penned 16 verses in Mr. Poe’s style as Irene blew over me in Queens.

A year later, Hurricane Sandy - the "Frankenstorm" (October 28, 2012) - was forecast by anxious meteorologists and Governor Chris Christie cautioned that this weather would be "like nothing we've ever seen before." Well, since we didn't really "see" anything in NYC with Irene, some folks took the warning a bit more lightly than before. One foreign friend quipped, "You Americans... as soon as I heard 'Frankenstorm,' I stopped listening. Anyways, I'm headed to Bushwick tonight." (Hope he has an umbrella.) So with gallons of water and bottles of liquor, cans of soup and lawn chairs stowed away in preparation, I settled into my new home – now in Rockland County – and waited with pen in hand, again.

At longs last, I finally finished the poem one year after Sandy, adding the 18th verse, parallel to Mr. Poe. Though East Coast hurricanes are not a regular focus of this blog, I still wanted to publish the poem to share it with you. 

Once upon an evening dreary, Boroughs pondered weak and weary,
O'er 'canes' rollick, sand-bagged volume through our tropic-coastal lore...
While I twittered, husband napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, pitter-patting at my door.
`'Tis the hurricane,' I muttered, `rain is dripping, blowing, splashing,
throwing at my chamber door,
Irene is here, nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember tweets and news and media frenz'er,
As each separate flying raindrop wrought its wetness 'pon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
from facebook surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the battered shores...
For the rare and radiant weekend when the angels watched it pour:
Irene landing, less Cat 4.

With the whistling, sad, uncertain rustling of each sheeting curtain
Thrilled me, filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before:
And this pause, the still, sound quiet sees the wind on tree top heights,
Irene, Irene, come on Irene, hesitance with no downpour,
'Vacuated, moved, and waited - hesitance with no downpour?
This it is, and nothing more?

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
'Bloom,' said I, 'or Bloomberg! Truly your forgiveness I implore;
Din't you say that we'd be thrashed with a violent weather bash, hid
so faint t'was tapping, gentle rapping at my 'partmen'st closed door?'
That I scarce was sure I heard her - while I opened wide my door -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, short I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
Twitter's silence then twas broken, and the dark unleashed, spoke, and
the only word there spoken were the whistling words, "Hit the floor!
Irene is rapidly approaching. Conditions deteriorating. Stay indoors!
Evac's over, stay indoors!"

Back into my 'partment turning, all the trees around me churning,
Lightning flash, I heard the thunder somewhat louder than before.
'Surely,' said I, 'surely is that something at my window taped shut;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my flashlight search a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis gale force wind and nothing more!'

Rain is sheeting through my shutters, and with many a push and bluster,
Media reports rave and predict when the storm will step on shore.
Facebook friends' statuses say we; not a minute stopping, staying
Whether in Zone A, B or C, public transport locked their doors.
Jersey, Brooklyn and Manhattan, public transport locked their doors
Evac early, not a chore.

Then this grey-whipped storm beguiled my freaked out fancy into smiling,
By its churning, red-punched info-graphics of the countenance it wore,
`Though reported shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art still a 'cane, a
ghastly grim and wat'ry grave wandering 'long the nightly shore -
Show me where you rip and whirl and tear our homes on Gotham's southern shores!'
Quoth Irene at 9pm, then, `Wait for more...'

Much I marvelled this ungainly cloud to hear it speak so plainly,
Though its answer deep with portent - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that our rampant social media
Ever'd heightened, helped to spread and, with goodwill yet at its core -
(εἰρήνη in Greek means 'peace') and, with goodwill yet at its core -
Posting through the night to set the score.

Hurricanes, they, sliding surely into harbor near us, pounding purely
That one word, in every tweet and post and 'tube was moored.
Anchored with a hashtag, uttered, by 'porter, punk and public - flustered
Till I heartfully then muttered, "Other friends, I hope, dear Lord
have place to stay, dry, safe and warm. All my friends, I hope, dear Lord."
Then Irene said, "I've got more."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "'rene is utt'ring only by her front and force,
Sent from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Follows fast and followed faster till her winds one burden bore -
Till our hopes this night a melancholy waiting for:
Destruction of meteorological lore."

Thus I sat engaged in guessing with no syllable expressing
To the 'cane whose fiery eye now twisted in my online core;
This and more I wrote ('haps hyping?) with my fingertips a-typing
On the keyboard's clicking that the midnight screen-light washed o'er,
(What monstrous size of Cone shall yet, with Uncertainty, pass o'er?),
Irene presses, yet hardcore?

Then, methought, the air grew denser, saturate, humid and tenser,
Stormed by surges swinging forecast, deluge ConEd's string and grid
"Forget Bloomberg," said Ms. Burrus, "Ain't goin' nowhere in this ruckus.
Not with stranger bedbugs, no way." Basement floods, wine in pour.
Power outage yet unheard of; streaming in the muddy floor.
Hurry all, to liquor store!

'Irene' said I, 'Thing of evil! Path abandon, weather-devil!
Tempest tossed thee here ashore now, wreaking havoc while we snore.
NYorkers all, we are undaunted on metropolis enchanted.
Cameras charged and laundry folded, flashlight batt'ries at the fore.
Water jugged and tubbed on hold, so tell me truly, I implore -
Will you be here in the morn?'

'What's this?' said I, 'Leaves! And branches! Strewn on streets midst lake-like puddles?'
Now the clear sky blue is reigning, rays and sunstreaks we adore.
(Weather-mongers were a frenzy: latent earthquakes lately rumbling,
with tornado warnings blaring, prostrate fell we on the floor.)
Mayor confirms, "Worst is ovah, back to nah-mal will restore."
Raised eyebrow, ope' my door.

This "irenic" situation prophesied of devastation,
(bottled bev'rages a-bursting now my 'frigerator door)
Groaning at the past day's hurry-lame with panic, night was blurry -
Storm has passed. The coffee's brewing while I stew and, yes, abhor
my Benjamin's investment of soup now tucked in cupboard, stored.
Garbage cans shall now turn o'er.

(Here the writer paused, only taking up her pen a year later as a new visitor approached.)

'That last word our sign of parting, 'Rene or fiend?' I shrieked, upstarting -
'Sandy’s here! Th'tempest rise on Monday night's South Jerseyian shore!
Tides a’swelling, winds are gusting, watching as the weather spoke of
“Frankenstorm” – a gale unheard of! Guaranteed to burst the region’s power!
Preparedness complete in earnest: chickens, lawnchairs, laundry, furnace,
Stowing candles, flashlights, soup and water safe up in our attic bower.
Quoth the Storm then, “Now, devour.”

One year passed, now - trees still fallen, houses drowned, lives' run aground and
we remember weather's wrathful clenching of the Tri-State's seeming pow'r.
Shoreline real 'state plummets lower than one's spirit in foreclosure, signboards stalking every corner, yet the earth still brings forth flower.
So my soul saved from that chaos - that which does not kill us, shapes us - shall be lifted and do more. 

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