Dec 032012
A nameless bird
Brings nightfall, singing
An unknown word.
The hurricane flies--
Grip the maple tree.

That first night of the hurricane seemed both too long and too short. Experiences were heightened by their newness, and I kept trying to expect the unexpected as the “Frankenstorm” kept bringing its magnificent indifference to bear upon my weak house. Before I knew it, a soft core of light was asserting itself to the east. There was no sun particularly, but colors began to leak back into the world–the deep greenness of a pine tree, the paleness of water on a wet slate step.

Hurricane dawn--
At the edges of the street,
Colors without sunlight.
Walking outside,
I hadn't expected this:
The sky's a watercolor.
Beside these pleasant marigolds
Of what use
Is a hurricane?
Waking up after a storm night--
The wind blowing in my dreams
Has been busy!

Unexpected pockets of good humor came out as I realized I might not have to put in a full day at work that Monday. I put on a pot of coffee and sat back with the Star Leger, cracking it open with a practiced flick. As a joke on the American (and NTA’s) fondness for holidays, I read that Halloween for the state of New Jersey was pushed ahead almost a full week to the following Monday. There was even some gossip about postponing the Presidential election because of the expectation of widespread power outages–and, more seriously, of canceling the New York Marathon. Ridiculous!

Halloween Hurricane--
Shingles on the lawn
Spell 'boo!'
NYC hurricane--
Watch out!
...Donald Trump's toupee.

We’d had some damage, but the newscast confirmed the worst was to come that night at eight, an unusual confluence of high tide, full moon, and the stormfall surge of the hurricane. Sandy’s big splash in the national media garnered a flurry of phone calls throughout the day–concerned voices without faces that were usually so wry and acerbic. I could hear the sunshine in the voices of my Cali friends, so many miles away, blowing me their happy hurricane kisses!

Late autumn wind--
The unsorted leaves fall

As the day carried on, I got used to Sandy’s rising ghostlike “Ooooo”ing, and even began to assume that nothing much would happen that second night when the “triple threat” of full moon, high tide, and storm surge landfall were all scheduled for eight o’clock.

Against the window
Blue with rain....
The cat sleeps.
Hurricane cypress,
From exclamation point
Curls to questionmark.
Trees lean together,
Swaying like drunks
Drinking the wind!
Hurricane night--
No moon for me
To philosophize about.

“Blow you hurricanoes, crack your cheeks!” King Lear was being rerun on PBS this second night–whether by coincidence or plan, I don’t know. How bleakly Larry Olivier delivered the despairing king’s soul into my cossetting lair. How wild and blank the heath! How foolishly apt the wily fool! How tragic indeed that accomplished men of the world, men of power and knowhow like the royal Lear can be so deceived by their own energy and effectiveness. It is not pride, exactly, but ability well and often executed to a tee that tricks noble and the wicked equally. This world’s painted on panes of candy glass we race through like finish ribbons–congratulating ourselves on our victories while reality lies in stained-glass shards all around us.

I most like those things I don’t often hear from others–odd comments, rueful truths reluctantly revealed–and Sandy gave me plenty of that! Tragedy is a stranger to modern America–and that is a long and often un-remarked-upon blessing. Our animal minds are built to scan the horizon and see saber-toothed tigers, limb-rending dangers, and other such vicious threats that in our common communal American life are (more or less) absent. But a hurricane 1,000 miles in diameter is not to be ignored or brushed off. Sandy was a talkative disaster, and I spent many days listening to little else than her winds and her black, hushed mumblings. When the power cut out, all of the quibbling clocks finally agreed. To be thrown out of one’s century and back to one’s most lonely childhood, TV-deprived days is of a significance equal to the autumn change of leaves, the aging of one’s thoughts, the limited energy that a single organism can bring to life–which is but the boring boing and unwinding of a crimped chemical entropy clock–at best.

After all those long slow strolls--
Who knew the boardwalk
Was a surfboard!
In the dark
The hurricane
Gets louder.
A neighbor says hello
Behind his lantern.
Pitch black,
Howling gutter-rattler--
To bed as usual,
Glasses on the nightstand.
Haiku fall--
Leaves from a hidden tree
I hadn't noticed.
Right around midnight--
A half-dozen blown transformers
Blaze black clouds sun-orange.

Now was our first time properly alone as host and guest. We each let out an involuntary “whoo-hoo” when the lights clicked off. Then there was some excited rushing about for lanterns, and the selection of the night’s candles: Scented or not? Fat and rosy, or thin as a whisper?

Stories of other hurricanes poured from us as the wind raced beyond the open screen–for it was a strangely rainless gale in our small corner of the storm. Sunny had the best tales, having lived in The Highlands for over a decade with its low-to-the-water business area and its uppity-high safe houses painted a crazy-quilt torrent of poorly-chosen colors. During one particularly fluid nor’easter, Sunny had run outside to reverse her car onto higher ground, with bread-bags and sandals on to keep her feet dry–and was nearly floated out of her driveway into the flood!

Hand-cranking the radio,
DJs chuckle at the hurricane
From far away.
From the dead fridge,
A half-frozen tropical popsicle
Tastes like sunshine.
Hurricane beer--
So warm and
So good!
Watching pipe smoke
In the hurricane....
Watching pipe smoke....
Putting away my pipe,
I keep my lighter out
Beside the candles.
For a second night,
On both sides of the window
--Just as dark.

Anticipation magnifies any experience. And we had been caught up in a warp speed bubble of hype about Sandy. I wondered when the couch would fly out the screendoor like a magic carpet and kidnap me up to heaven to kiss the very lips of the wind! But, despite my geared-up fancy, I found the reality of the storm a changeful enough challenge. What’s real may lack something in imaginative exultation, or excess–the piling up of improbabilities until we giggle or our eyes go wide with disbelief, but reality has a way of stretching, detail by detail, our thoughts until they match the actual matrix of things. With the lights out, I thought, no one sees our happiness. Like earthworms coring out the soil so that, unknown to their small blind minds, other roots may delve more easily, so we dive into reality–and by simply participating create more than we can imagine.

Not too bad--
Alone with my thoughts
Beside this candle.
Without a nightlight,
I reach outside my window
And click on the moon.
Quick, fireflies!
Help me pick up
This evening's heavy darkness.
Such noise outside!
Hurricane candles
Burn silently.
Through the windstorm
Sound red.
All night in the hurricane
Words blow about loudly
As trash cans.

The night came and went. What had been wished for or feared either materialized or dissipated like a snuffed candle’s smoke….

Even with all these troubles
The trash man rolls through
Politely at 7 a.m.
Joking barefoot on the porch
With cigarettes and cold coffee--
If only we knew how bad it is!
Without power,
Many more apartments
Lift their shades.
The late shrub-blossom
Tips, spills onto my face--
Yesterday's hurricane.
Dogs pull their owners,
Picking up hurricane sticks--
Wet and happy.
Trees after the storm--
Only now do I see
How patiently they were waiting!

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